Today’s guest blogger is Rebecca Schwartz, Corps Member on the Citizen’s team at P.S. 112Q
For Halloween at PS 112Q, we wanted to give students the opportunity to use math outside of the classroom, and to practice and apply math content in a new and different setting. The night before Halloween, our team“hid” 42 ghosts in our school’s cafeteria — paper ghosts, which we cut from construction paper, decorated with silly faces, and hung on the cafeteria walls and windows. On Halloween morning, we announced to the student body that ghosts had come to haunt P.S. 112Q. To rid our school of the Halloween ghosts, each student would solve a series of Halloween challenges.
During lunch, we gave each student a set of math word problems, which we based upon our Halloween ghosts. We had arranged the ghosts in six groups of seven (for a total of 42 ghosts) and used a variety of sizes and colors, which allowed us to create strategic math word problems that targeted grade-specific math strategies and skills. For example, our third graders figured out how many ghosts had come to haunt P.S. 112, using equal groups (a multiplication strategy) to find the total; our kindergarteners figured out how many blue ghosts had come to haunt P.S. 112, practicing counting and categorizing by color. We wrote a different set of problems for each grade, and we aligned each of our questions to the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) for Mathematical Content. In this way, our Halloween celebration supported our school’s ongoing effort to incorporate the Common Core. For each grade level, we also created a teacher key that included the questions and corresponding CCLS, so that teachers could review the problems with their students.
In this way, Halloween offered us the opportunity to develop students’ productive disposition—specifically, our Halloween Hide and Seek helped to foster students’ interest in and positive attitudes towards math. Our students were excited to explore the cafeteria, and they helped each other find and count ghosts around the room. City Year Corps Members checked students’ work and, from time to time, hinted that students hadn’t found all the ghosts—then our students hurried off to find more ghosts and adjust their arithmetic accordingly.
Our students enjoyed the fun Halloween-themed application of their emerging mathematical skills, and our teachers appreciated the problems’ explicit alignment to the CCLS. In many cases, our students continued to discuss the Halloween problems throughout the day, asking Corps Members for help, checking their own work for errors, and so forth. Our team was excited to share a Halloween math activity with the school, and we hope to implement similar initiatives for other special occasions throughout the year.