'Figure' In: Indiana State students teach kids about math, science and technology in museum program

March 25, 2011

Teaching third and fourth graders about math, science, engineering and technology came as second nature to a group of Indiana State University students.

The volunteers from different academic backgrounds are helping with this year's "Go Figure" events at the Terre Haute Children's Museum. The program, which was created in collaboration with the ISU Center for Mathematics Education, features different lessons teaching local third and fourth graders about science, technology, engineering and math. Several ISU technology education students planned the first two program sessions of this semester with a simple approach: teach what you know.

For Alexis Strain, an ISU senior from Terre Haute, it meant that getting the soybeans needed for a children's activity during the "Math on the Farm" session was much simpler than it would be for most people.

"I grew up farming and stuff," Strain said, "so it was fun to go to my grandpa's farm and dig them out of the planter to bring them in."

This semester's program consists of five sessions, which run every Thursday from Feb. 24 to March 31, though there was no event on March 10. The technology and engineering education students first got involved with the program after their professor, Kara Harris, last fall met with Patty Butwin, chairperson of the advisory board of the ISU Center for Mathematics Education and co-creator of Go Figure.

Butwin and Harris discussed the idea of the students participating, and it quickly grew from there.

"This would give our students, of course, another opportunity to get involved in both formal and informal education, and in my mind, you cannot get enough experience before you go out to teach," Harris said. "It also gives them the opportunity to give back to the community as well."

Each session included ISU students presenting information about how math and science helps in certain activities. During the first session, "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing and More," children learned about protective equipment that racecar drivers wear and aerodynamics involved with drag racing. The ISU students even created a simulated drag race track, and the third and fourth graders in the program raced wooden cars similar to a drag race.

The session "shows you how much prep time that you have to put into something," said Dan Lewellen, a junior technology and engineering education from Clayton, Ind. Lewellen was responsible for planning the activities for the first Go Figure session.

Go Figure is currently in its third semester. It started last year after Butwin and junior Katelynn Moats created the program as a creative way to encourage children to explore math and science.

"We really want to enrich students and encourage them that math is in their everyday life in the things that they do on a daily basis," Moats said, "and as we've progressed with our sessions, we choose topics that they see every day, like baseball, for instance, or farming, so they can make that connection."

 

When the program first started, eight ISU students volunteered to run the program, Butwin said. This semester that number has more than doubled to 20, though that doesn't include others, such as the technology and engineering education students, who created specific programs.

 

During the second session of Go Figure this semester, the technology and engineering education students had three different activities to teach kids about technology used in farming. One group taught young children about how GPS technology is used, while another group discussed how soybeans are utilized for an array of products consumed every day. A third volunteer group taught children about biotechnology through various kinds of chickens that lay eggs.

Since the program started, almost 90 children have enrolled to participate, though some of them, such as participant Maddie DeBaun, have participated more than once.

"One of my favorite subjects at school is math," Maddie said, "and since I've heard that this is about math and so I just wanted to see what it was, and it's a lot of fun."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/1205523629_PDgEa-L.jpg (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)
Indiana State University students Alexis Strain and Sarah Pemberton lead a presentation during "Go Figure" at the Terre Haute Children's Museum. ISU students volunteer for the program, which uses creative methods to teach math and science to third and fourth graders.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/1205525961_eGSec-L.jpg (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)
Indiana State University student Paul Schulz, dressed in a chicken costume, helps in an activity during a "Go Figure" session at the Terre Haute Children's Museum.

Contact: Patty Butwin, chairperson of the ISU Center for Mathematics Education advisory board, Indiana State University, 908-432-2633 or pbutwin@indy.rr.com.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.