Playing 'Math Jeopardy' game helps school board chairman appreciate math programs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

School board Chairman Joshua Kaufman was all smiles. He had just successfully answered a questions in a "Math Jeopardy" game - "I'll take students for $500," Kaufman said - and the exercise gave him a bit more appreciation for the scope of school system's mathematics programs.

"I think the board really enjoyed it," Kaufman said of the game, which took place at Thursday night's board meeting, part of a half-hour overview of math programs by Bryan Scott Ruehl, coordinator of secondary mathematics, and Kay B. Sammons, coordinator of elementary mathematics. "It was almost like having a town hall meeting on math."

Board members learned about the implementation of math instructional support teachers, or MISTs, an after-school tutoring program for elementary pupils that has resulted in 20 percentage point growth for assessment tests.

They also heard about a co-teaching mathematics pilot that places special and general education students in the same high school algebra class.

Kaufman said the co-teaching pilot is responsible for a 30 percent increase in math scores at Hammond and Oakland Mills high schools, two of the five schools where the class is taught.

School board member Courtney Watson also was impressed with the co-teaching class. She said the presentation likely will affect the system's operating budget process.

"I want to look at what programs are not working as well as co-teaching, and we can redirect money from less successful programs to more successful programs," Watson said.

Discussing goals

Board members and key administrators, including Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, spent most of their recent annual retreat discussing goals and the board expansion from five to seven members in December.

"We do have some challenges before us next year," said Watson of the possibility that the board could consist of mostly new members after this year's election and expansion.

During the retreat at the United Way regional office in Elkridge, the board discussed adopting a committee system that will enable board members to focus and become experts on one or two subjects instead of having general knowledge of all subjects, said Watson.

"We looked at how other boards use the committee structure," she said.

Watson also said there was talk about the need to preserve institutional knowledge on the board. One way is through a revised board handbook, Watson added.

"Bringing in that experience is really, really critical," Watson said. "Otherwise you are re-creating the wheel."

Cradlerock program

About 50 pupils from Cradlerock School will give a half-hour black history presentation Wednesday featuring a mix of history, music and acting for employees of the Wells Fargo corporate office in Columbia.

The program will feature two children reciting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. An orchestra will play several spirituals throughout the program, and pupils will use a PowerPoint presentation to teach about the civil rights movement.

"The whole process has been very meaningful to them [students]," said Belinda King, the school's band director and one of the organizers of the program. "They are very moved by the way people respond to them."

Cradlerock pupils have been doing similar presentations since 2002, but this is the first year that they have been asked to perform outside the school.

The group performed at a breakfast for the Maryland State Teachers Association on Jan. 14 and also has performed twice at the school.

"We often move people in the audience to tears," King said.

Fighting cancer

They bowled, they wore hats for money, and one pupil made a bit of a sacrifice on her birthday. And in two weeks, pupils at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School raised more than $7,000 for cancer-related organizations.

On Monday, 166 children crowded into a bowling alley in Ellicott City for a bowl-a-thon and brought in $6,650 to benefit the Children's Cancer Foundation.

"It was a huge success," said Alicia Berlin, the gifted-and-talented resource teacher at Triadelphia Ridge. "The kids just had a great time, and they really supported the cause."

An additional $481 was raised for the Foundation for Children with Cancer during an event in which pupils paid money to wear hats in school.

Also, Katie Arensmeier, a fifth-grader from Dayton, asked her friends to donate money to the Children's Cancer Foundation instead of giving her gifts for her 11th birthday Jan. 14.

"I felt like I got all of my presents for Christmas," she said. "I thought the people with cancer needed more help than me getting presents."

Her friends donated $285.

"I felt happy because I felt I was doing the right thing," she said. "I was making a good choice. I felt proud."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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