Fifteen or 20 years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a math teacher who hadn’t told their class at some point during a conversation about being able to solve equations in your head: “You won’t be carrying a calculator with you everywhere you go.”
Nevertheless, even though many us do have a smartphone in our pockets at all times now, knowing and understanding how to do real-world math is an important part of life. A good grasp of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division can get you through the majority of math-related problems you’ll face on a day-to-day basis in the real world.
Our Grade 2 students are in the process right now of developing these skills. And while they’ll grow up in a world where a calculator is usually within reach, it remains vitally important for them to know numbers, so when it comes to handling money or following a recipe they aren’t lost.
“They learn how money works, they learn how to record information on a table, they learn how to count out teaspoons of cinnamon and how to weigh flour, and how to be attuned to prices and rounding up numbers when something costs $3.98 to think of it as $4 . It’s not just random information that’s drawn out of the air,” says Ms. Nina Duffus.
For the better part of two decades, Grade 2 students have made and sold gingerbread cookies at SMUS to raise money for a local charity. This involves walking step-by-step through mathematically focused activities to ensure students understand the process and so that they are accurately filling cookie orders.
“This is real math. If they get it wrong people aren’t going to get the right number of cookies and they’re not going to have the right amount of money for the cookies they’re delivering,” Nina says. “They pick everything up, they do the sorting. It’s their hands that’s on the money and on the orders, so it takes a long time, but that comes with their familiarity with all of this. Because we’ve been teaching to this point, there’s been an impetus for them to learn how to do it because they know that they’ve got an important job where they need to apply what they’ve learned.”
Late last week students in both Nina and Ms. Pam Yorath’s class measured out all of the ingredients and made the dough. Early this week, the students rolled out the dough and cut the cookie shapes. The cookies were decorated and bagged mid-week, and on Thursday students in both classes were tasked with collecting the money and filling out a table to ensure that the number of orders received matched the money they counted.
In all, the students made more than 1,500 cookies, which, if they all sell, could earn them upwards of $2,500. Next month, as Christmas approaches, students will go to Fairway Market and use the money they earned to shop for food items to create hampers that will be donated to Sandy Merriman House.
“A lot of kids seem to think money solves problems; bring money, give money, your problem’s solved. This is a sweat equity project based around learning math. Now they know how much work goes into raising those dollars, collecting the money, selling it and shopping,” Nina says. “They see the whole process of working to make money and they learn throughout that whole process. It’s a miniature business enterprise; what better way to learn?”
(photos by Gordon Chan and Kyle Slavin)