NWU Students, Elementary Students Learn From Each Other at Math Night

NWU students made beaded bracelets and played cashier with first-graders at Elliot Elementary to help them learn math.

Students enrolled in Math 2: Mathematics for Elementary Teachers at Nebraska Wesleyan designed an activity-filled Math Night for an afterschool event held in November.

This was the math department’s seventh appearance at Elliot since the program was organized in 2004. This year was the first time Math 2 students worked with one grade level instead of all grades, a request from Elliot’s principal.

The first-graders responded exceptionally well to the lesson plans NWU students created for Math Night. Six stations were set up for the kids to rotate through, each with activities that made addition and subtraction fun instead of work.

Teachers at Elliot Elementary were just as excited about the event and plan to use some of the creative lesson plans in their classrooms.

Kristie Pfabe, professor of mathematics and department chair, teaches Math 2 at Nebraska Wesleyan. Her goal was for NWU students to learn just as much from the first-graders about teaching as the first-graders learned from the NWU students about math.

“This experience gave NWU students a chance to apply their lesson plans in a classroom setting, specifically practicing how they communicate with the kids.”

Pfabe said Math Night was such a success that the event was hard to wrap up. She was thrilled to hear that one of the first-graders who had never participated in a learning activity was engaged in the activities at Math Night.

Junior elementary and special education major, MacKenzie Ashton, led an activity that taught equations by decorating butterfly cutouts with fuzzy balls and beads. She’s learned that teaching math is easier and more fun for kids when they feel like they’re playing instead of doing problems on a worksheet.

“It’s most effective to teach kids math using creative activities so that they don’t think about the fact that they’re doing math.”

MacKenzie said that the kids had so much fun that they got their parents and siblings to participate in their favorite activities.

Classmate Kristin Vandenberg, a junior also majoring in elementary and special education, practiced addition facts up to 30 with the kids by adding beads to pipe cleaner bracelets.

“Doing Math Night at Elliot showed me how excited kids can be to learn,” said Vendenberg. “Even though it was math, they had a lot of fun with it.”

Pfabe will continue bringing NWU students back to Elliot at least every other year to give them the hands-on experience of working with kids, while encouraging math and learning to the elementary students. 

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NWU students enrolled in Math 2 showed Elliot Elementary students that math can be fun.
NWU students designed math activities that resembled playtime for the first-graders.
Math Night gives NWU students the chance to try out their lesson plans.