Learning mathematics can be a nightmare for many kids who are in elementary school. But thanks to Archimedes Math Schools, a non-profit organization created by two math professors at UWinnipeg, the experience could be very different.
Professors Anna and Ross Stokke of UWinnipeg’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics noticed that many important math concepts were no longer being taught in elementary school so they started to work with a group of children in their neighbourhood. Around 10 kids, including the Stokkes’ daughters, met at the professors’ house after school to study math. The extra work helped the children succeed. It was so rewarding for the professors that they decided open Archimedes Math Schools in September, 2012 at St. George’s Anglican Church.
Professor Anna Stokke, who works as a volunteer, explains that Archimedes Math Schools provide the opportunity for children to receive reinforcement on the subject, and feel comfortable when they learn mathematical concepts.
The classes are designed so that the students understand, enjoy and quickly put into practice what they learn. She knows that the elementary schools lack the resources to delve into complex operations, such as multiplying or dividing with several digits, because “they (teachers) are supposed follow the curriculum.”
Professor Stokke has also been working with the Manitoba government on changes to the provincial math curriculum.
At the Archimedes Math Schools, 63 students in grades 4 and 5 attend 70-minute classes once a week. They use the Jump Math Program that helps them understand concepts and apply them step by step. The teachers use blocks to teach arithmetic, as well as written problems and interactive games. Some kids receive extra help in basic concepts, while others get enrichment with complicated problems if they need more of a challenge.
Professor Stokke notes that children should learn math in a friendly environment and surrounded by people who like the subject, otherwise they may feel uncomfortable and frustrated. It is a factor considered by Archimedes Math Schools, which has four instructors who are math students from UWinnipeg and who love teaching arithmetic to children. “They (kids) really like it… they’re happy be around people who like math… so the kids see that, and they start to like it, too.”
Another significant factor to be considered in learning math is a good understanding of the basics. “That is what we do, we make sure they understand the concepts,” says Professor Stokke. “If people are taught math properly, the theory is we can help everybody learn Math.”
Professor Stokke thinks that the base starts in grade one, but it is in grades 4, 5 and 6 when the foundation is built to understand more complicated operations.
The decision to name the school Archimedes is because of the ancient Greek, Archimedes of Syracuse, who was considered one of the great mathematicians in the history. It also reflects that the organization was founded by mathematics professors.
Professor Stokke says that any parent can apply to enrol his or her child by paying a minimum cost of $335 (which include all the materials). The classes run for 28 weeks during the school year. For more information visit: http://archimedesmath.uwinnipeg.ca
Article by Alejandra Salcedo, an intern in UWinnipeg’s Marketing & Communications department. Photos published with permission from Professor Anna Stokke.