Learning math is fun? That was basically the question that some students, who don’t do well on this subject, were asking when they attended the first day of the Number Ninjas camp. But once they began solving the clues to the mystery game they were playing (while learning math), they discovered that it was much more interesting than memorizing formulas.
At least that was what the 15 participating students, from middle school and higher elementary grades, where telling David Sanchez, Instructional Assistant Professor at the University of Houston.
“One of the reasons why we called it Number Ninjas was because we were trying to get kids enrolled into a math camp, without directly telling them it was about mathematics, so we took the word ‘math’ out and kids just started signing up because it sounds more interesting and fun which is, I think, what math should be.”
And he is right. While students in a room at UH stretch a measuring tape, they laugh and giggle but continue jotting down numbers and figuring out who was the ‘culprit’ of their mystery game. “What we are trying to do -says Sanchez- is have the kids be curious about math again and learn how to appreciate it and see that is not just memorization and reciting.”
Magda Galindo, Manager of the Migrant Education Program of the Multilingual department recognized the great opportunity these type of camps provide to participating migrant scholars. “Kids are experiencing a new and fun way to learn math. The 15 participating students are enjoying it, and the most eye-opening comment is that they will use the tools they have learned in their math classes.”
While students work in pairs and continue measuring and using Fibonacci’s sequence, some of them call out to other students asking: ‘Does your pattern match the data collected? I think I missed something in my sequence.’ Then, Loren Kristick, Math teacher at Energy Institute High School and teacher for this year Number Ninjas assists students and clarifies their doubts.
“This activity will help them see examples of real-life versus just simple calculations in the classroom,” she explains. “This could be applied to all levels. In this room, for example, we have our youngest student in 4th grade and our oldest in 8th grade. We also have kids that have taken Algebra 1 already, and others that that are still struggling with fractions. But they all get to enjoy and learn in a fun way. We break them down into different groups based on ability and their interest and we try to explore the same concepts just with more or less scaffolding, more or less extensions, and provide different interactive opportunities for them.”