Teacher candidates present Family Math Night

December 7, 2016
Lindsey Robieson and Hailey Bullock

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Thirty-one students from the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently presented Family Math Night for students in second through fifth grades and their families at Dodgeville Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. More than 100 children and adults attended the event. It was the 13th time the event has been held.

UW-Platteville students who planned and implemented the event are teacher candidates preparing for student teaching and are enrolled in the Senior Seminar course, taught by Erin Edgington, assistant professor in the School of Education at UW-Platteville, and the Teaching Elementary Mathematics course, taught by Dr. Jodean Grunow, senior lecturer of mathematics at UW-Platteville.

University students began the planning process by collaborating with Dodgeville Elementary School’s principal, Julie Piper, and grade-level teachers. Students applied their content, pedagogical and developmental knowledge to design mathematics activities for children with broad ranges of ability to learn, providing them with instruction that supported their intellectual, social and personal development.

Preparing for the event enabled teacher candidates to gain hands-on experience fostering relationships with school colleagues, parents and agencies in the larger community to support pupil learning and wellbeing.

“I believe this project is an invaluable one for the students and communities alike,” said Edgington. “Research and theory are important considerations in the development of teacher pedagogy, but practicing these skills is the authentic engagement students need to develop an understanding of what this means.”

Providing engaging mathematical games and activities at Family Math Night also enabled university students to provide community service for students, families and the school.

“The UW-Platteville School of Education makes many efforts to connect to the surrounding school districts,” said Grunow. “One of the most exciting connections has been through Family Math Nights. Several districts have asked the Mathematics for Elementary Teachers class to plan a Family Math Night with them, to research the school curricula for enrichment opportunities, and to then prepare and deliver the investigations. It is quite an honor for the university class to be entrusted with a school public relations project.”

“The collaboration between UW-Platteville students and Dodgeville Elementary staff to provide a Family Math Night is a wonderful community outreach opportunity for our school,” said Piper. “We are thrilled with the professionalism and enthusiasm of students as they work with our students and families. We look forward to this annual event and the connections it builds.”

"We are thrilled with the professionalism and enthusiasm of students as they work with our students and families. We look forward to this annual event and the connections it builds.”

              – Julie Piper, Dodgeville
                 Elementary School principal

“The Family Math Night at Dodgeville Elementary School is a wonderful opportunity for students to come to school in the evening with their families to participate in fun math games and show off their math skills that they have been learning in the classroom,” said Darci Sullivan, a fourth grade teacher at Dodgeville Elementary School. “The students enjoy having the UW-Platteville students come to their school with specially created games to play with students and help them learn. These nights allow future teachers a chance at hands-on teaching with students and it gives families a very important chance to connect with the education process.”

In order to deepen and broaden their perspectives and abilities to plan mathematics activities in the future, teacher candidates attended “Math Proficiency for Every Student,” a professional mathematics conference hosted by the Wisconsin Mathematics Council on Nov. 3 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The focus of sessions they attended was “Empowering Your Students through Discourse and Productive Struggle,” investigating the mathematical structure of problems, the relationships among mathematical ideas and learning mathematics with understanding. There were opportunities for students to create tasks that would incorporate productive struggle as well. They discovered the benefits of focused and relevant learning opportunities, idea sharing, networking and the consequential presentation of their learning.

“Our conference attendance was extremely beneficial to us as pre-service teachers and helped us to grow professionally,” said Emily Simons, a senior early-childhood middle-childhood education major from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “We learned a lot about productive struggle and we could connect this to the experiences we gained working with students at Family Math Night.”

“With the additional opportunity to learn instructional strategies focused on the topic, our students were provided an opportunity to reflect on their mathematics activities through this narrow lens, refining their approach and instructional strategies to meet this outcome,” said Edgington. “Without previous knowledge of the students attending these events, our pre-service educators are making instructional adjustments in an authentic manner, meeting the elementary students where they are developmentally.”

“The decisions they are making, the manner in which they communicate and support students in these scenarios is neither scripted or consistent – it is responsive to the needs of each individual,” added Edgington. “This type of engagement is preparing students for future instruction of students with varied needs and abilities, as well as communication with parents and students.”

Students involved in the project include Lori Olson, MiKayla Hambley, Emily Simons, Hayley Pollei, Mary Ebeling, Hanna Fleming, Mariah Wasley, Caitlin Price, Madison Laube, Megan Hammond, Samantha Ludwig, Lindsey Lambert, Morgan Reese, Bradley Doherty, Natalie Erbe, Coral Wuebben, Katie Williams, Felicia Billings, Ryan Miles, Ellie Anderson, Lindsey Decker, Elizabeth Pelegrin, Lindsey Robieson, Michelle Gitlin, Mariah Ahrens, Katie Johns, Daniel Halterman, Kortnie Christen, Katie Droeszler, Heather Obershaw and Hailey Bullock.

Funding for Family Math Night was provided by the Dodgeville Elementary School Parent Teacher Circle. Funding for the conference was provided by Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement, a UW-Platteville initiative and funding source for campus-wide coordination, integration and leadership of community-based scholarship of engagement projects and internships that involve students, faculty, staff and community partners. “PACCE funds have been invaluable for extending opportunities for student learning and engagement,” said Edgington.

Students in Edgington’s and Grunow’s courses next semester will conduct another Family Math Night in March at Dodgeville Elementary School. Activities at this event will focus on grades pre-K-first grade.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The students' presentation of Family Math Night aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect, and enriching the tri-states.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, Communications Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu


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