NWU Math Night Helps Elementary Students See That Math is Fun

How do you make math “appear” fun for elementary school students?

A black top hat and a magic wand must have done the trick for approximately 200 Elliott Elementary School students and their families who attended Nebraska Wesleyan University’s fifth annual math night earlier this month.

“It’s a great experience for the elementary-aged kids as math seems to get a bad rap," said Associate Professor of Mathematics Kristie Pfabe.

Each year Nebraska Wesleyan math faculty and students take their show to the elementary school in an effort to help students see that math can be fun and that problems can be solved. The evening began with pizza and a magic show followed by opportunities for students to participate in 10 interactive activities like estimating the number of M&Ms in a jar and learning about geometric shapes using colored strings.

“The NWU students welcome, invite, engage, and support children and families as they participate,” said Elliott Elementary School Principal De Ann Currin. “They make thinking hard, thinking creative, and thinking with mathematical concepts and symbols easy and magical.”

But elementary students aren’t the only ones learning at math night.

“I think it was eye opening for our students to be around such a diverse group of kids,” said Pfabe.

It’s also another hands-on opportunity for NWU students who hope to one day be math teachers themselves.

“I think this partnership is extremely necessary especially to keep kids interested in school,” said NWU student Brent McKain, who was also known that evening as the magician, Great Mathematicus.

Funding for math night was made possible by a NWU service-learning grant.