Math? or Play in the Gym? Answer: Both
PIMS Manitoba holds the first Math Mania in the Province
On June 15th, 2016, the Department of Mathematics of the University of Manitoba held the first Math Mania day in the province at Westgrove Elementary School.
Math Mania was started by members of the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. They created Math Mania as an outreach event in which volunteers and mathematics faculty members travel to an elementary school and set up a series of mathematical games for a large group of children to interact with.
Darja Kalajdzievska, Instructor in the Department of Mathematics at the U of M – elected as PIMS’s Manitoba Educational Coordinator last September – travelled out to B.C. last May to participate in two Math Mania events.
“It inspired me to get the same thing going here,” said Kalajdzievska.
A Math Mania event runs for one-and-a-half hours and brings students into an atypical place to learn mathematics: the gym.
“Westgrove Elementary School had approximately 65 grade 3-to-6 students in the gym playing the mathematical games – which included everything from Popsicle Stick Puzzles to the Error Correcting Code Game to a giant, human-sized sorting algorithm that the kids walked through.”
“They loved it! The group of kids were very engaged throughout, and once it was over they wanted to keep on playing.”
It was an opportunity to take children who might not otherwise have any interest in mathematics and engage them in learning and using their mind power to solve a variety of puzzles.
“The goals for Math Mania are to expose elementary school kids to math in a fun, interactive, and un-intimidating way. I think we definitely accomplished this and the feedback from the principal and teachers reinforced the success of the event.”
This event was even more influential as it was presented to a group of kids considered at high-risk of dropping out of school.
Mrs. McInnes, teacher at Westgrove Elementary said, “to see all of our students completely engaged in math activities for one and a half hours was so exciting.”
“The range of activities allowed for all students to participate and try some new things. Many of our reluctant learners came to me excited and said, ‘That didn’t even feel like math!’.”
Hopefully many more students will be able to discover the engaging side of math at their own Math Mania events. “To get it off the ground initially took a huge amount of preparation – building all of the puzzles and games from scratch – but now that they are all made doing further events will be easy,” said Kalajdzievska.