Sixth-grader Brianna Walls was walking along the street when she noticed a patched pothole that looked exactly like one of the geometric shapes from her math class. One of her classmates, Davonte Williams, picked up a wood chip at the playground on Harrison Street and described it as a parallelogram. Almost everyone in the class pointed to a bright yellow traffic sign as an example of a pentagon.
Picking these shapes out of a textbook in class is one thing, teacher Elena Evans said, but geometry lends itself to visual aids and hands-on learning. That is why, since the weather has warmed up, Evans is bringing her math students to the Park District and turning them loose on the playground.
“They’re able to kind of put those two things together, they’re real world and this thing called geometry,” Evans said.
Evans is in her first year teaching math at the Forest Park Middle School and said she strives to give her rambunctious sixth-graders a chance to get out of their seats once in a while. Besides keeping the students engaged, Evans said it helps them understand concepts if her kids are able to physically participate in a math lesson.
Student Deshonay Hudson has always recognized that a stop sign is an octagon, but said she may not have noticed the obtuse angle in the park bench.
“But we’re really noticing it now,” Hudson said.
Afrika Buford, another sixth-grader, said that having a more tangible example of what was covered in the classroom makes the lesson easier to remember.
“It helps with the test because you can picture it,” Buford said.
According to the 2006 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, 62 percent of this year’s sixth-grade class was performing at or above grade level when they took the standardized test as fifth-graders. Results from this year’s ISAT, taken in March, are not yet available.
On average, District 91 students in grades three, four and five who took the ISAT last year scored higher in math than in reading.
Aside from warm weather trips to the playground, Evans has also had her students out of their seats for lessons in decimals and rounding. For fractions, Evans said, it’s helpful for students who cook with their families at home to use that experience as a touchstone in understanding the lesson.
“They have that connection with the real world,” Evans said.