Miami on a mid-October night is still warm, but south of the city, a gentle breeze made its way through the Air Base K-8 Center, a Miami-Dade County Public Schools campus. This made our space for gameplay in the setting twilight soft and inviting.
Colleagues from MIND Research Institute, creators of ST Math, were able to take part in a recent family night event for Miami-Dade City Schools on October 16th, 2019. Each year, Carmen Monge, a magnet lead teacher from Air Base K-8 Center, honors science and mathematics teaching and learning by hosting a S.M.A.C.K. (Science and Math Activities that Connect Kids) night. The event was a success, with over 600 families in attendance from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools community.
Camped out beneath a roof in the fresh air, on picnic tables and across the grass, MIND colleagues supported the community by hosting an interactive math game area. The mathematical games we supplied were intentionally designed to inspire play between children and their families, and to develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies.
“It is always one of my favorite things to see, a parent and a child productively struggling together and enjoying the process,” said Brandon Smith, Lead Mathematician and Product Director at MIND. “The most important thing we can do as facilitators at family events is to put our families in the driver’s seat. When they drive, the impact skyrockets. We saw that at family night.”
Brandon Smith leads the development of MathMINDs Games, storybook board games that combine math, history and literacy in a highly connected experience. Through each story, families learn and play games as they explore real events from the game's country of origin.
The first suite of games, South of the Sahara, which includes Achi, Gulugufe and Farona, was funded by Rockwell Automation. To date, over 2,000 games have been given away to families—many never having played games together before. Brandon and his team at MIND are currently working on some new games, some of which Miami-Dade County Public Schools families got to experience at the event.
In an effort to change the way her community related to mathematics, Mrs. Monge felt it was critical to engage families and students with each other and not only technology. MIND was able to support Mrs. Monge’s request to make math a social experience at their event this year.
Engaged deep in mathematical play, some participants gathered around the storybook board games. Others solved the seemingly impossible challenge of removing a looped rope with a golf ball on one end of two interlocking screws, resulting in whispers, excited gasps, awe, and amazement. By teaching mathematical concepts through enriching gameplay, math becomes a tool for building schemas and deeper reasoning.
MIND’s mission is to ensure that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems. We see the need to reach a student’s entire learning ecosystem, including their family. Supporting S.M.A.C.K. Night at Air Base K-8 Center is part of an effort through our MathMINDs initiative to change not just students' relationships with math, but our entire society’s feelings toward math as well.
Former administrator Brian Coffey successfully implemented innovative STEM education programs in Ohio, and now brings his expertise to districts across the country as Senior Academic Director at MIND. Converse with him on Twitter @PrincipalCoffey.