family math night at Steves

Posted on: March 15th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Thursday evening I was invited to a family math night at Manoah Steves. Ellen Reid, grade 1 teacher and Kathleen Paiger, kindergarten teacher, have embraced an approach to teaching mathematics that has generated much enthusiasm amongst the students

The two classes set up a variety of mathematical tasks in the library and parents and their children circulated around, engaging in the tasks. The students were so excited to share what they could do with their parents!

Materials used included Cuisenaire Rods, an outstanding mathematics material that is used for a range of mathematical topics including addition, subtraction, algebraic thinking, measuring fractions, ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.

One of the tasks was to roll a die and then make that number is as many ways as you can. As you can see in the first photograph below, there are many ways to make 10 using these rods. This is essential mathematical understanding at the kindergarten and grade one level – decomposition of number and parts-whole relationships.

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The students enjoyed playing games that they had practiced in glass. These games all used visual supports such as ten frames and dot patterns to support students with their mathematical thinking.


There was also a “math movie” to watch, showing many of the tasks done in class, with students explaining their thinking. For many parents, I think this helped them understand the complexity of the tasks the students were engaged in. I heard one little girl exclaim, “I want to watch it again!”


For many of the tasks, the school’s iPads were used to provide instructions or prompts for the students. iPads were also available for students to select math-related apps to investigate and practice math concepts and skills.

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It was heart-warming to see so many young children in one place so excited about mathematics!

Kudos to Ellen and Kathleen to creating an exciting mathematical community at Steves! You can follow their classroom happenings on twitter by following @11steves1 and @13stevesk

Note: The notion of Family Math Nights began with the book, Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark in 1986 with the goal of helping families see the importance of mathematics within society and by introducing rich mathematical games, tasks and problems for families to engage in doing mathematics together.


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