By Mara Certic
Jocelyn Worrell is the chair of the Sag Harbor Elementary School’s Math +Venture. She spoke about the upcoming event, and why it’s important to make math fun.
How did this event come about?
The idea for a creative math event or math fair, to take place at our school, was initiated by our principal, Matt Malone, three years ago. I was talking with Matt about my son Silas’s interest in math and we got to talking about ways to create inspiration and enthusiasm for a subject that is often viewed as difficult or non-creative and quite abstract.
It’s the third annual Math +Venture, have you been involved since the beginning?
I have organized the event the past three years. This year is very different than the previous two years. We have a lot more participants. We will have 23 activity stations. Several of our teachers—Haley Luzim, Jeff Reed, Mindy Reyer, Kim Spolarich, Jennifer Warner—have designed projects and are running activities both during the school day as well as in the evening. This a very exciting new thing this year, that every student in the school will be able to participate in the teacher-run activities during the day. The community has been getting more involved each year. This year we have several local institutions participating with tables and activities at the Math Fair: Apple Bank, Brookhaven National Laboratory, CMEE, Parrish Art Museum, Sag Harbor Sailing and South Fork Natural History Museum. We have many parent volunteers and support from our PTA and we absolutely are the luckiest school to have such strong encouragement and support from Matt Malone and Donna Denon. Diane Hewett also helped us a ton this year, and designed our amazing poster.
How successful have the events been in the past?
In 2013 we made the decision to have our first Math Fair and had about three weeks to prepare. We held the math fair on a Friday evening in May and were competing with baseball and still had a great turnout. People seemed really excited and were asking if we could do it twice a year. Each year it has grown in size and evolved in a beautiful way. Last year we scheduled the Math Is Fun Fair for March 14 (3.14)—also known “Pi Day.” Did you know that in 2009 Congress passed a resolution designating March 14th as National Pi Day? It is a day to encourage schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about the concept of Pi. So last year, we made a special effort to focus on Pi. Schiavoni’s and Conca D’Oro donated pies and pizza to accompany our “Pi Tables” and will do so again this year. A concept like Pi is pretty amazing, and it is possible to show very young kids how every circle has the same special relationship, that this magical number continually appears no matter what size circle you have.
Why do you think it’s important to change the feelings around math, and why now?
My personal feelings about math are that is a beautiful and mysterious thing that is often misunderstood. Math seems to be greatly admired but also feared. Many people say “I’m not good at math” or “I’m just not a math person.” Maybe if people were more exposed to math concepts in the most exciting and positive ways, they might feel differently.
In our current climate of curriculum shifting, technology and a globalized economy, there has been a lot of focus on math in particular. Math is important and needs support from all directions. With this event we are trying to create a philosophical shift: to show that math can be an art, it is creative, it has strange and mind-blowing properties. What are these mysterious properties you ask? Come to Sag Harbor Elementary School on Friday evening and check out it out.
What are some of the events you are particularly excited about this year?
This year our event is titled Math Adventure (Math +Venture) and our theme is maps and navigation. We have a Question Scavenger Hunt planned—as kids go around to the different stations they must answer a question that relates to the station’s theme.
The Math +Venture will take place on Friday, May 8, at the Sag Harbor Elementary School. The night of math fun will run from 6 to 8 p.m.