Math students up to the ‘challenge’ in club

Think you’re as smart as a fourth-grader? Try answering the problems below. Answers are given at end of story.

A: How many more states are there that border the great lakes than there are great lakes?

B: The international nautical mile is 6070 feet. How many feet longer is the international nautical mile than the statute mile?

If you know the answer to these questions then you are as smart as a smart fourth-grader. A select group of Webster Elementary School’s brightest fourth-and fifth-grade students meets each Friday before school to solve problems like these in the Math Club.

“In every classroom there is a variety of teaching methods. I don’t want any student to feel like Math Club is getting something that they are not. It is extra focus on a group of students who are high-achievers,” said Phil Cott, principal of Webster School. “Math Club is more of the best of what we do for them.”

But, whereas in regular math class students “just do a page of math in the book, in Math Club you do mental math and matrix,” said Cameron Burrell, who just completed the fourth grade. Students learn to compute in their heads and also solve problems using a matrix.

And that’s not all. They learn how to solve spatial relations and logic problems that you “don’t see until eighth or ninth grade,” according to Kevin McCarthy, coordinator of state and federal programs in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and former Malibu High School math teacher. He manages the math curriculum for the district, professional development of teachers and program funds.

McCarthy, who was invited by Phil Cott to observe Math Field Day, May 16, noted, “The children leave the traditional, rote-learning that’s in texts, to discover learning.”

After a year of Math Club, Math Field Day allows the members to show off their intellects and compete against each other in teams. Until a few years ago it was a district-wide event.

It was canceled because “it was getting too difficult to do the teaming, funding and staffing for it,” said Pat Samarge, principal of Franklin Elementary School.

Parent volunteer Karen Chu said, “The parents are there as a support team. We collect papers and correct them. It gives a message to our kids when we are there.”

“The club gets the kids really excited about the different aspects of math. They start to feel really confident that they can do it,” said Kris Stewart, a third-grade teacher and sponsor of the club for the past 6 years.

Selection for the Math Club begins in the third grade where students who score well on the exams are invited to join the following year. Alternatively, students in GATE and those recommended by their teachers are asked to join the club.

The kids love Stewart for giving them “hard” and “challenging” math they can work on with their friends. Parent Jackie Williams praises her for “making math fun and exciting.” And Principal Phil Cott commends her “innovative” approach.

In the eyes of district officer Kevin McCarthy, the math presented at Math Field Day is along the same line as the College Prep Math (CPM) that he instituted at Malibu High School. It’s an open-ended way of doing math and it’s less teacher-directed. CPM was developed in the ’80s, and in the mid ’90s it started entering the schools.

At present, schools are permitted to choose textbooks from a list of books approved by the state.

“State lists are getting more liberal, you can choose from a greater variety,” said McCarthy. “There are more student-centered learning books, not teacher-centered.”

The Math Club is just one of many extra academic programs for students. Webster School also has a Chess Club, Law and Bill of Rights course, and the annual Yearbook class. This year a handful of students qualified to participate in summer programs administered by Johns Hopkins University.

A answer: 3

B answer: 790

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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