These are difficult times for all of us, but Santa Fe Public School teachers and their students have been hit particularly hard by the constraints of online learning, compounded by a dramatic decrease in funding for books, materials, and supplies for teachers and students alike.
MathAmigos, a collaborative working group funded by Opportunity Santa Fe, focuses on training teachers from five local public elementary schools to “inspire kids to love math” using innovative strategies and techniques. This year, due to Covid-19, MathAmigos has had to replace in-person training and coaching with online workshops and e-coaching sessions. Here are just a handful of examples showing how MathAmigos is responding to education-related challenges during these unusually demanding times:
MathAmigos Provides E-Coaching to Teachers; Delivers “Grab and Go” Math Kits to Kids
Since September Judy Reinhartz, PhD, has been e-coaching 3rd and 4th grade teachers at Sweeney Elementary to integrate math-themed children’s books and hands-on materials into online instruction. Her Embedding Literacy in Math program uses children’s books to spark students’ interest, expand their math vocabulary, engage in meaningful math conversations, and make sense of the world of numbers in their daily lives. Dr. Reinhartz has distributed 150 “grab and go” math bags to children in this program.Teachers report that students embrace these books with great enthusiasm in part because they show how math fits into everyday life.
MathAmigos Switches to Online Teacher WorkshopsFor three years now, MathAmigos has offered training workshops for local elementary school teachers. The workshops introduce teachers to exciting new ways to teach math concepts to children who have come to believe they “can’t learn math.” Teachers learn innovative strategies — like Exploding Dots, Math Circles, and Cuisenaire Rods – that can ignite an interest in math among the most hard-to-reach students. Over the years MathAmigos’ workshops have expanded to reach more than 80 teachers in grades 1 through 6.
When the pandemic made in-person workshops impossible, the challenge for MathAmigos was to figure out how to teach these hands-on math techniques in an online format. They did figure it out, and in the process gained important insight into the roadblocks teachers experience every day in their virtual classrooms.
On Saturday, November 14, 2020, MathAmigos rolled out their first online workshop for teachers from five targeted elementary schools along the Airport Corridor. They started small – with four hourlong sessions limited to 20 teachers – but the impact was real. Teachers learned strategies for engaging wiggly and easily distracted children in grades 1-3, and how to utilize Exploding Dots when teaching fractions to kids grades 4-6.
The next teacher workshop is scheduled for Saturday, January 23, 2021.
The workshop will offer sessions ranging from “How to Not-Get-Stuck on Word Problems” and “Do Fractions Have to Be Hard?” to “Engaging Our Youngest Students: Online Strategies That Work.”
In response to an increasing need for books and supplies at local public schools, MathAmigos has assembled and donated boxes of math-related resources to five public elementary schools in Santa Fe’s Airport Corridor – Cesar Chavez, El Camino Real, Nina Otero, Ramirez Thomas, and Sweeney. Each school received more than 200 items: math-themed children’s books, booklets containing fun math activities and story problems, innovative Mindset Mathematics handbooks for teachers, and kid-friendly math supplies (like Geoboards, Spinners, Dominos, playing cards, and dice) to keep students engaged during online classes.
Teachers from these five schools are encouraged to borrow the math supplies they need for their online classes, then return them for others to check out. When schools reopen, the MathAmigos Teachers’ Resource Libraries will make it even easier for teachers to expand their options as they inspire kids to love math.
MathAmigos Partners with Santa Fe Public Library to Create “Mathemagical Times”
Over the summer Santa Fe Public Library and MathAmigos offered a unique interactive math and literacy program for 80 children ages 4 through 14. Mathemagical Times utilized an online format where MathAmigos and Library staff hosted twice-weekly sessions for four different age groups – reading math-themed children’s books aloud and leading activities related to those books that brought math to life in unexpected ways.
Based on the success of the summer program, the Library and MathAmigos teamed up again this fall to offer a similar online program — Mathemagical Times X 2 — for middle school youth grades 5-9. They utilized literature, art, writing, puzzles, games, and manipulatives such as dominos and Geoboards, to develop the knowledge and skills students need to learn 5th to 8th grade math. They also introduced 8th and 9th grade students to new symbols and abstractions to help students grasp pre-algebra, algebra, and geometry. The program was designed to show middle school kids what is “under the hood” and fun about math – leading to greater resilience in meeting increasingly difficult mathematical challenges.
Both the summer and fall Mathemagical Times programs relied on books provided by the Library and activity kits provided by MathAmigos, all of which were distributed to participating kids through the Library.
“Homework Help U Hotline”: Helping Students Make the Grade
Online learning creates all sorts of barriers to learning. As a result, many students are falling behind or even failing in math. To bridge this ever-increasing gap, Santa Fe Public Schools has created a Homework Help U Hotline for students and their parents. And MathAmigos partners have volunteered their time to respond when students or parents call for help with homework.
While the Homework Help U Hotline is in its early stages, more and more calls are coming in. Currently there are about 35 volunteers who have responded to almost 70 calls. If you or someone you know is struggling with math in school, consider referring them to the Homework Help U Hotline at (505) 467-4663. Phone lines are open Monday through Thursday from 4-6PM and the help is free.
For the past six months MathAmigos has been working with their webmaster, Bob Bogart at Cosine Computers, to broaden and deepen the scope of MathAmigos’ website. The content is now bilingual and offers a wide variety of innovative math resources for teachers and families.