Release Date: May 12, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mathematics will be the subject of the day on May 18 and May 19 when the University at Buffalo welcomes hundreds of elementary and middle-school students who will conduct presentations and participate in individual and team competitions designed to engage area elementary and middle-school students in math.
"Math Is Everywhere" will be co-sponsored by Erie 1 BOCES and insurance company Cavan, Dudzinski & Associates Inc., in cooperation with the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the UB Gifted Math Program. It will be held in Knox Lecture Hall on the North (Amherst) Campus.
"Our young people need to be proficient in math," says Robert Barnes, SEAS associate dean for external affairs. "It's extremely important. Math is the language of science and engineering. It's central to what we do."
SEAS hosts the "Math Is Everywhere" program at UB as a means to give back to the community, as well as to encourage the development of critical math proficiency skills in area students, Barnes explains.
"They're our potential future students," he points out. "We want them to enjoy math."
This is the fourth year since 2002 that the engineering school has been involved in the event, says Edward Cavan, a sponsor who, as a former member of the Sweet Home School Board, worked to create the program.
"Math Is Everywhere" grew out of a project that began at Sweet Home High School about 10 years ago, Cavan says.
"It started as a response to the Everyday Math Initiative that was being implemented in Western New York schools," he says. He describes the project as a "holistic approach to math," designed to stress the role of mathematics in the real world and incorporate additional skills, such as language arts, into the math curriculum.
The focus on real-world problems in the team-competition portion of the event illustrates this goal, as well as the teams' presentation topics, which are geared toward real-world applications to stimulate problem-solving abilities. For example, at last year's event, the seventh-grade teams were asked to take on the role of environmental consultant, using math to create a straightforward presentation to convince town officials to step up recycling efforts to reduce trash 40 percent and decrease volume losses in valuable landfill space.
Questions are prepared each year by math teachers from participating schools.
The problems don't just challenge students' math skills, but encourage creativity and oral-presentation abilities as well, says Cavan.
Students from the Amherst, Lancaster, Sweet Home, West Seneca and Williamsville school districts and St. Mary's and St. Amelia's schools are scheduled to take part in the program this year, says event facilitator Barbara Mocarski, manager of the Erie 1 BOCES Instructional Resources Team.
Elementary students in grades 3-5 will come to UB on the first day and middle-school students in grades 6-8 on the second. Annual participation averages about 500 students, says Mocarski.
Cavan notes that thousands of students have taken part in the Math Is Everywhere program since its inception, adding that "there are students who have competed since their third-grade year."
Last year, the event was open only to students in grades 6-8, but the demand was so great in grades 3-5 that those grades will return this year, Mocarski says. Moreover, the requests to participate didn't just come from parents: Children lobbied to participate as well, she says.
"The kids really enjoy themselves at the event doing math," she says, noting that this blend of fun and learning is evident in the creative costumes students often wear as part of their presentations.
Cavan says holding the program at UB lends the event a certain "aura" because it is an institutional venue with large classroom spaces and lots of available technology.
During the competition, students are able to use buzzers and to enter their answers from the individual test portion of the event into CPS (Classroom Performance System) devices, which allow for fast tabulation of exam scores and enable organizers to distribute awards at the end of the day.
Students receive first-, second- and third-place awards in individual and team categories for best mathematical process, best solutions and creativity.
"It's great to walk into a school and see math trophies in the display case," Cavan says.