I never dreamed I would start a math club. It’s not that I don’t like math. In fact, I enjoyed math when I was a student many years ago. It’s just that I know my weaknesses. Even though I liked math as a student, I really am not good at explaining math concepts to my own children. This is something their dad is good at and also, thankfully, the other adults who help teach math to my children.
So, when I submitted paperwork to MathCounts National Math Club at the beginning of the school year to start a new math club, I was as surprised by this as anyone.
Why would I, of all people, start a math club? Why does any desperate mother do a crazy thing? Well, here’s the reason: Love. I love my sixth grade daughter, and I wanted to encourage her in math. I felt like she could really use another layer of math reinforcement.
Someone I respect told me that MathCounts is one of the best things you can do to help a middle-schooler solidly learn important math concepts. Since the woman who told me this is an experienced homeschool mom of six kids who all went to top colleges, and she is currently an SAT tutor, I thought that maybe she might be right.
So, I found a math teacher who would be the main “coach” for the kids, telling her up front that I am bad at explaining math concepts (full disclosure!), but that I would be happy to do all the administrative stuff involved in running the math club and help at each meeting. Thank God for people who love math and are good at teaching math!! She agreed to lead the MathCounts club.
And so the adventure began.
I registered our club and got a free club-starter kit in the mail. There are many free online resources for this type of club as well. I indicated on the registration form that I thought maybe six or eight kids would join us. Apparently a lot of kids are interested in math—or, more likely, a lot of parents are interested in their kids bolstering their math abilities—because we had 18 kids show up at the first meeting and 22 kids at the second meeting. It was a little overwhelming!
MathCounts advertises that it is “not textbook math.” This is very true. Each club meeting involves math games and activities that engage kids outside of math textbooks. Since we started in September, we have played various games. We have played a Jeopardy-type game where kids divide into teams, compete to find the answer first, and sound the buzzer. We have played group games where kids switch groups in different rounds to solve problems collaboratively with different people in each round. We have played a type of math Bingo. We have played a measuring game with units such as pennies, paperclips, and M&Ms.
We always have a prize bucket handy, and we conclude each club meeting with snacks, to help keep it fun.
Getting this club off the ground has been a learning curve. We hope to make it better as time goes on. If you are interested in MathCounts, beware that it covers really tough math concepts. Sometimes I feel like our sixth graders are in over their heads. My friend who leads the club has done a good job trying to find more introductory problems for our kids to get their feet wet.
My husband sometimes asks the kids, “What did you fail at today?” to encourage them to take risks and try new things. It’s okay to fail. In fact, failure is inevitable when a person tries new things. Success does not come without many failures along the way. I thought about this when I started the MathCounts club. I decided to give it a try, not knowing what exactly to expect.
I don’t know if my new math club venture will ultimately be a success. But I am trying! And it’s been a fun learning process.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Amy Koons.