New club: A fraction of fun
The merry band of third through fifth graders seen walking eastward from Prospect Elementary School after class on Mondays and Wednesdays may look like they’re heading off to get ice cream cones, but it’s just the Du Bois Fraction Club. Yes, a fraction club.
The brainchild of recently elected Oberlin school board member Ken Stanley, the club is a completely voluntary program with the goal of making math fun. And the students do enjoy it, running to get cards with fraction problems on them and then running again to deposit the cards in the correct answer envelopes hung on a “number line.”
Among the group’s other activities are “Rush Hour,” a puzzle that requires students to think ahead about how to maneuver sliding pieces on a large board to free up one piece, and “Fraction Bingo,” where they run from station to station to get stickers to complete their bingo cards.
“The running is important,” Stanley said, “but it’s about more than who wins. It’s about attacking challenging math problems and then celebrating success.”
Prospect student Alana Mitchell wasn’t sure which aspect of the fraction club was her favorite.
“I really like doing the math, but I like the exercise, too,” she said before taking a turn at Rush Hour. “And my dad thinks it’s cool.”
“Our students really enjoy and benefit from the innovative ways the Du Bois Fraction Club teaches math,” Prospect principal Jim Eibel said. “Because it doesn’t take place in a traditional classroom, they learn math without realizing they are in a formal math lesson.”
The Fraction Club meets either in Oberlin College’s Hales Gymnasium or on the lawn in front of an OC building. The critical element is providing a large space for running. Every session includes coaches, usually Oberlin College students and parents of Prospect students, who provide assistance and supervision.
“I love this program because it’s a great pathway to learning fractions,” said Michelle Vincent, a program coach and the mother of two students in the program – one an Eastwood kindergartner who is allowed to attend because his mother and older sister are there. “And they use what they learn. At home they’ll announce triumphantly that we’ve just eaten three-eighths of the pizza.”
Aldrumecia Baker, an OC Bonner Scholar, was a coach at a recent outdoor meeting of the Fraction Club.
“I like it because it involves kids,” she said, “and working with them is refreshing. I’m not a math major, but I like this.”
Stanley is a computer scientist and consultant who began thinking about how to help young students learn math when his daughter, now a student at Brown University, was a child.