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SFA online teacher candidates host math career carnival for area elementary school students

December 7, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
Stephen F. Austin State University senior EC-6 education major Christina Martin, of Franklin, Texas, explains to fifth grade students how to play her legendary librarian game. Recently, SFA teacher candidates from across Texas who are enrolled in SFA's online teaching field experience II course hosted a math career carnival for fourth and fifth grade students enrolled at Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School in Nacogdoches.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Who said math couldn't be fun? Certainly not the early childhood through sixth grade elementary education online teacher candidates at Stephen F. Austin State University, who used games and interactive stations to put a twist on math curriculum.

Recently, teacher candidates from across Texas, who are enrolled in SFA's EC-6 online early elementary education field experience II and mathematics methodology courses, hosted a math career carnival for fourth and fifth grade students enrolled at Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School in Nacogdoches.

SFA students collaborated online to develop carnival booths that highlighted math skills. Each booth offered an interactive activity that helped elementary school students practice math skills and connect those skills to a career such as a professional athlete, architect, librarian, contractor, banker, zookeeper and more.

Teacher candidate Shannon Grimm, Willis senior, designed an activity where students threw balls into receptacles of varying sizes and were awarded points. The students added their points to determine the professional sport they may be best at based on their sum.

"The goal behind the carnival is to incorporate careers and jobs into the math environment and curriculum so the students can make connections with the real world," Grimm said. "In school, it allows them to have engagement and excitement for what they are learning in a fun and entertaining way."

SFA students divided the carnival into two sessions - one serving fourth graders from 9 to 11 a.m. and the other serving fifth graders from 1 to 3 p.m. Overall, approximately 200 BQJ elementary school students participated in the event.

"When you get kids out of their seats and moving there is more blood flow to the brain, which allows them to learn more, remember, adapt and be involved in the activity," Grimm said. "Teaching in this atmosphere makes it not so much like you are sitting in a math lecture class. It's more fun and engaging. The kids don't even realize they are learning."

SFA Assistant Professors in the Department of Elementary Education, Paula Griffin and Mark Montgomery, created this pilot project as a way to engage online teacher candidates in a real-world teaching experience.

"This carnival is a fabulous opportunity for our teacher candidates to develop and hone their teaching skills and for elementary students to interact and make connections between math and the real world," Griffin said.

Montgomery agrees the benefits of this project are twofold.

"First, kids don't always get a chance to see careers they can use math for, so one of our goals was to introduce the students to the different careers that use math," Montgomery said. "Second, this teaches our teacher candidates how to bring relevant activities into the classroom and tie those activities to the content they need to teach."

SFA's EC-6 elementary education online degree completer program offers non-traditional students an opportunity to earn their teaching certification and Bachelor of Science online. For more information about the program, visit http://www.sfasu.edu/elementaryed/97.asp or email ec6online@sfasu.edu.