At Marshall Elementary School, preschool kids are using macaroni noodles to help learn the basic concepts of numbers.
This free program from the Marysville School District is meant to help kids prepare for kindergarten by learning the foundational building blocks of math and writing.
Paige Elwell, a district math coach who helped start the program last year, wants to make math something that won't be menacing to kids when they become students.
"My main goal is really to relieve math anxiety, and to know that math really makes a lot of sense if you keep the quantitative part in there. I think we tend to just go to the symbolic piece really quick with kids," said Elwell.
Elwell's math program uses physical pieces that the children can push around and play with to learn the concepts of numbers and counting, like the macaroni noodles used on April 14 at Marshall Elementary.
This atmosphere has attracted students and parents for the series of workshops.
Jackie Glassman, a parent, said that the best thing about the program was that it introduced learning and school to her children in a fun way.
"We are preparing our children for the educational experience that they need to enter kindergarten, and we're helping parents understand what we're doing and why we're doing it," said Michelle Gurnee, principle of Marshall Elementary.
During the session, Colleen Williams, another district math coach who helps run the program, explained to parents the three concepts of numbers and how these three concepts gel inside a young child's mind to form an understanding of numbers. The goal is getting kids to that deep understanding, and Elwell and Williams are trying to show parents how to better facilitate the concepts.
These early childhood sessions help the children, but they're also meant to help parents become better at preparing their children with the basic building blocks for math.
"Parents are their first teachers," said Elwell, so preparing parents is one of the best ways to help future students.
After the in-school session, the youngsters are given math activities to take home and work on. Ramonda Sosa, whose child went through the math sessions last year, said the activities and supplies really helped give her son, now currently in kindergarten, a leg-up in the math concepts he has to deal with.
Most parents knows that reading to your child helps improve literacy, but they don't always know the right approach when it comes to math, said Williams.
The program actually began when a parent asked Elwell what programs were available for pre-kindergarten math. There are literacy programs through libraries, but nothing math-related, so Elwell proceeded to create a program herself. She received enough funding and the space at Marshall Elementary School, whose principal Gurnee also has a degree and interest in early childhood education.
"It really was just a very grassroots beginning where we just had one parent say 'hey, can we get some math?' and we said 'sure'," said Elwell.
The program began last year with only a math component, but received so much positive feedback and repeating participants that a literacy component was added this year as well.
The literacy program, with a goal of helping youngsters become writers, begins April 21 and includes free books to take home.
Elwell has already taken some tips from the literacy coaches and used them to help her own daughter.
"She comes into my office every Saturday now when I'm paying the bills and says 'I want to write a story' and I say 'okay' and start writing it down for her," she said. The first story Elwell's daughter told was "Three Little Pigs," but with princesses instead of pigs.
"The thoughts in the head are there, but they can't do all the scribing...the kids do have a lot of ideas so the challenge is to get that down and start creating writers," she said.
Literacy sessions are scheduled for April 21, May 5 and May 19 at Marshall Elementary School from 11 to 11:45 a.m. The remaining math sessions are planned for April 28 and May 12 at the same time and place.
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