by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
Otsego Elementary School’s gym overflowed with great feats of strength at a recent event. But these feats didn’t involve lifting anything heavier than a playing card. Students and their families gathered in the packed gym to flex their math muscles and learn new ways to have fun together.
Nearly 500 students and family members spent an evening at the school for Deal Me In …Math Games. The event was a part of the school’s ongoing efforts to make math fun.
“Playing games like these together helps build relationships within the family. And it helps students get to be where they need to be. It makes learning fun, too,” said Molly Engebretson, who teaches second grade at the school and helped organize the event.
Jane Greni brought her son, Connor, a kindergartner, to the event.
“This is a really cool deal,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect but he loves math so this is perfect.”
Math games have been integrated into the school’s curriculum in the last few years, after the teachers spent a day learning from Mary Dank, a co-teaching consultant from St. Cloud State University.
Second-grader Ashley McClurg said her favorite game was Pyramid “… because I know it. I played it at school.”
McClurg played the game with her father, Dan, and her best friend, neighbor, and fellow second-grader, Kaileigh Hosking. McClurg’s older sister, Grace, a third-grader, sat nearby, playing the game with fellow older students.
Dank was on hand at the family event, teaching the group more than a dozen math games that can be tailored to the needs of any student at the kindergarten through fifth-grade school.
“She calls it stretching and squishing,” said Katie Johnson, a first-grade teacher, of Dank’s methods. “All of the games can be stretched to the higher grades or squished down for kindergartners.”
The school also hopes that by teaching these games to the whole family the fun will continue at home.
“You use regular playing cards so you don’t need all kinds of different materials. It’s something everyone has at home so it’s easy to do,” Engebretson said.
A family game night isn’t the only time for math games. Dank advocates integrating the fun into ordinary evenings.
She encouraged, “19 minutes of commercials are allowed in every 60-minute program that you watch. Think about what you could do if you hit mute every time those commercials came on and you did some math.”