Whenever someone asks me what I do for work, I can go on and on telling them what I love about my job. As Program Manager for our Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) grantees, each day brings new stories to light about the transformative power of STEM education. I also have the pleasure of working with so many passionate educators who consistently go above and beyond to make math learning fun for their students and their families.
Last month, we were thrilled to team up with the faculty at Pines Middle School in Broward County, Florida, to host a Family Math Nightnight for their community. Thanks to our strong VILS partnership, MIND Research has worked with Broward County Schools for over the past year to provide free devices, internet connectivity, and the ST Math program.
On a warm Florida evening, nearly 100 parents, students, educators, and volunteers flocked to the large multipurpose room at Pines Middle School to enjoy connecting with one another through a variety of math-based games designed to encourage conversation about math and learning.
What are Family Math Nights?
In anticipation of our visit, we noticed that the students at Pines Middle School were working extremely hard on their ST Math objectives, racking up a considerable amount of minutes and exceeding their previous weekly goals. Their average weekly usage increased to over 103 minutes that week - well beyond their 60-minute target!
In addition to increasing the time students spend on ST Math, the overall goal of MIND's Family Math Night is to provide a venue for students to demonstrate their math skills to both parents and peers outside the classroom. It brings together families, participating school teachers, and administrators in a fun, relaxed and positive environment. These types of opportunities are essential to bringing communities together to help increase STEM education awareness, learning, and experiences.
MathMINDs Games, used at MIND's Family Math Night, include the ancient math games Achi, Dara, and Gulugufe, among others. These games help players develop strategic thinking and spatial reasoning, and to embrace productive struggle.
Productive Struggle Makes Learning More Meaningful
Nothing compares to the feeling students experience when they finally have that "aha!" moment after figuring out how to solve a challenging problem by themselves. This learning process, known as productive struggle, is central to our pedagogy as it enables students to confidently solve new and challenging problems.
As my team passed out instructional aids and a list of facilitating questions to get conversations started, we noticed so many thoughtful discussions taking place between parents and students. It was wonderful to see the students devise their own strategies, build problem-solving confidence, and learn from their mistakes. Some students were even showing the adults how to complete the more difficult puzzles.
Why is STEM Education Important?
Verizon Innovative Learning understands the importance of preparing today's students for the 21st-century workforce with a specific focus on STEM skills. Their mission is to ensure that all children have access to technology and quality STEM education. In addition, supporting STEM education creates opportunities that connect Verizon and its employees directly with youth and the community to foster future talent for the technology pipeline.
Thank you to everyone who helped bring this program to a deserving community!