By Jack Wolfe
Whether we like it or not, math is all around us… even at carnivals. The LMSA team’s most recent Engagement event aimed to show our community both a real cool time and the importance of mathematical literacy. With the help of student and community volunteers, we transformed the atrium of the new Linden-McKinley building into a legit midway, complete with games, face painting, prizes, decorations, and a boatload of tasty, tasty concessions. If you don’t mind me saying, it was a “math-ical” night.
A bit of background: the LMSA team is just one of many squads designated a “Math Prototype Team” by City Year. As an “MPT,” LMSA is asked to use a specific tutoring curriculum and place a special emphasis on math instruction and engagement. A chief part of this engagement involves creating a “culture of math” at the school, something I find much harder to craft than a “culture of literacy.” In reading, you find characters, conflicts, action… the stuff of “real life,” at least as I know it (for the record: I majored in English). In math, there’s less stuff to grasp on to. For many of our students, the subject exists only in the abstract (“when are we gonna use this?”). But as anyone who’s recently filed their taxes knows, an understanding of math is absolutely essential to getting by in this world.
And what better way to show this, I ask you, than by putting on a math carnival? Watch Moneyball: games are all about numbers. Probability, patterns, estimating, geometry, speed and distance… they all come into play (literally). For our event, we lined the halls with stations testing a variety of skills (meticulously crafted and led by our volunteer-delegating extraordinaire, Miss Sarai). All the stations gave out tickets, which introduced another math element to the night: how to budget when you’re asked to choose between a hot dog, a snow cone, and an inflatable guitar.
The whole thing was a blast. In terms of numbers, well, we had a real nice turnout. Our afterschool Heroes showed up, seniors and juniors showed up, Corps Members from other teams showed up, LMSA faculty showed up… it was a terrific showcase for our school. And it was great to see everyone fired up about something that our society doesn’t normally get fired up about.
(There was a cupcake eating contest, too. But I think our society gets fired up about those on a regular basis, so I didn’t immediately mention it. (For the record, it was awesome, too.))