TOWER— A kindergarten student here has inspired the creation of a new after-school club and it’s, surprisingly, focused on math. Most kids complain about math in school, but Stephanie …
TOWER— A kindergarten student here has inspired the creation of a new after-school club and it’s, surprisingly, focused on math.
Most kids complain about math in school, but Stephanie Ukkola, of Soudan, says her son Edwin says he just doesn’t get enough. “Math is my favorite thing,” Edwin said. “But we just do a little bit at school.” At home, Stephanie said, Edwin wants to do math all day long. “Edwin is crazy about math and enjoys figuring out puzzles. He spends much of his time counting, adding, exploring patterns and finding the math involved in everyday life,” she said.
His passion recently led to his suggestion for a new after-school activity, focused on math games and toys. “So, we can do a lot of math here,” he said, “and so other kids can enjoy math, too.”
Three families, with a total of eight children, four parents, plus a high school volunteer, attended the first math club meeting last Tuesday.
“Math is not just learning rules and repeating,” Stephanie said, “math came about because of curiosity, a desire to describe and measure the world. Math works best when people work together to solve a problem, and children naturally play with math. We we want to encourage that. I hope we can help kids and their families connect over number-fun,” she added.”
Her son inspired her to freshen up her math skills.
“A lot of my ideas for games and challenges come from mathematician Jo Boaler and her website YouCubed,” she said.
Math club meetings start with a math challenge. “We have a scary-monster box filled with math challenges,” Stephanie said. “The students work together to solve the puzzle. The monster is meant to be ironic, because it’s not really scary!”
Tuesday’s challenge was the infinity hotel. What if you had a hotel with infinity rooms and infinity people? What if one person came? What room number would you give them? What if a second infinity of people came?
“It’s a fun, open-ended thought experiment,” she said.
After the challenge, the participants break into activity stations or choose their own games.
The group is meeting at the Tower Gathering Gallery, a furnished space that offers hourly rentals right off Main Street, and the tables in the room were filled with math-related games, open-ended activities with a focus on measuring and fractions, playing cards and dominoes, tactile play for preschoolers, a play store with a cash register to practice counting play money and making change, and books with math themes.
Sarah Flores said her fifth-grader also loves math. “It just makes sense to him,” she said. But she admitted that math often doesn’t make sense to her. Her first grader doesn’t share her older brother’s love of math but was having fun operating the toy cash register and “selling” snacks.
Desirae Larson, who does online homeschool with her five younger children, said her kids do fine with “little kids” math, but that she often has to use google to help her high school age children when they have questions about their math homework.
She does love watching them gain skills and confidence as they learn more math. One son just overcame his fear of fractions, she said, after several weeks of struggling to understand the concepts.
Jacey Raj is volunteering with the club, as part of her volunteer commitment as a member of the National Honor Society at Mesabi East High School. While she said Spanish III is her favorite class, she does enjoy math, and this year is taking probability and statistics, though her favorite math subject has been algebra.
The next two math clubs will meet Dec. 12 and 19, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Tower Gathering Gallery, 515 Main St., Suite 104 (side entrance of Pike River Products). The club is aimed at preschoolers through grade six, though older children are welcome to come to help the younger children. There is a one-time suggested membership fee of $10/family to pay for venue, math supplies and snacks. If popular, organizers plan to keep it going in 2024. Call Stephanie Ukkola for more information, 218-410-6001.