Students at Perry Elementary Center are crazy about a new after-school math club that uses everyday items to teach concepts in a fun and interactive way.

The Crazy 8s Math Club, started at the school by volunteer Alison Haines, is a free, eight-week program that engages children in experiments about geometry, distance, time, gravity, angles and sound, all using household items. On Tuesday afternoons, kindergarteners, first-graders and second-grade students meet in the cafeteria for activities that combine learning with fun.

In one recent session, students built catapults out of spoons, popsicle sticks and pencils to launch marshmallows and measure their distances. In another, they made geometric forms out of glow-in-the-dark sticks and giant clocks using their bodies to learn about time. Each session includes an explanation of the concepts and terminology of the day’s activity and a review of past learning before the students divide into small groups for the experiments.

Staffed completely by volunteers from the community and the school, the Crazy 8s club is an offshoot of Bedtime Math, a website developed by Laura Bilodeau Overdeck to emphasize math in early learning. When Haines, the mother of a first-grader in the Hamburg district and a preschooler at home, heard about the club, she approached the Perry PTO about starting it at the school. Soon three teachers, Debra Hay, Laura Kuklis and Kathy Reinert volunteered to lead groups of children at each session. Students who showed promise in math in the early grades were invited to participate and the response was huge.

According to Reinert, there was a real need for the club.

“When the idea was presented by Alison (affectionately known at the school as “Momma Haines”), I knew immediately that this was something we needed to do for our younger students,” she said. “We opened the math club to 20 students and, sadly, we had to turn some away, because the group filled so quickly. We hope to run the Club again next year.”

“I think it’s important to get kids involved in extracurriculars,” said Haines, “and there was nothing at the school for children in kindergarten through second grade. It’s important to highlight how academics can be fun.”

Haines feels the activities are so popular with the kids because they can relate to the math concepts in a physical, rather than a theoretic way.

“When we use everyday objects, like toilet paper in our Toilet Paper Olympics or stuffed animals for our Zipline Zoo, we show the kids the math that is hidden in the items,” she said. “This allows them to play while we teach them the math concepts behind the activities.”

Reinert, too, sees the value of the hands-on interaction.

“At the beginning of the program, several of the students thought that math was simply doing worksheets,” Reinert said. “Now they realize that math is fun and is a part of their everyday lives.”

The kids are excited about the program, too.

Sadie Haines, a first-grader in the club, loves math and says the Crazy 8s club makes you love it even more.

“You get to do many, many things that you don’t think math is in,” she said. “I love that we get things when we’re done, like a stopwatch and a tape measure that we can use at home.”

Jaxon Seidel, a second-grader, has a new appreciation for the subject.

“I liked math before,” he said. “But now I like it a thousand times more because it’s fun!”

As the mother of a daughter, Haines felt additionally compelled to provide opportunities for girls in a subject which has often been geared toward boys.

“Girls are sometimes not thought to be as capable of math as boys,” Haines said. “I want girls to have available the opportunity to succeed at the earliest possible age and to show that they can excel in math.”

Seeing the kids get excited about math is the biggest reward for Haines and the other volunteers.

“It’s incredible to hear them yell out ‘polygons’ and ‘octagons’ — information they’ve retained from the earliest days of the club — when we review concepts at the beginning of each session,” she said. She noted that the support of the school administration and the volunteers willing to implement the program are essential to the club’s success.

For Reinert, math club brings out the best in students.

“As a teacher, it is very rewarding to have a group of kids so energized about learning that they are willing to stay after school,” she said, “and actually complain when we tell them it is time to go home.”

To start a Crazy 8s math club, contact www.bedtimemath.com. Most of the supplies needed for the experiments are provided free by Bedtime Math, and the use of common school and household items offsets much of the small out-of-pocket expense for volunteers.

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