NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Why is math important?

Stephen F. Austin State University early childhood through sixth grade elementary education online teacher candidates recently hosted a Math Career Carnival at Raguet Elementary School to help answer this question.

Through a variety of interactive booths, SFA students showcased math skills and connected those skills to careers such as aerospace engineering, managing a bakery, landscaping and working as a veterinarian.

Drs. Paula Griffin and Mark Montgomery, assistant professors in SFA's Department of Elementary Education, orchestrated the Math Career Carnival as a way to engage online teacher candidates in a real-world teaching experience.

"SFA online students live all over Texas. Unless they are paraprofessionals in a school district, our online students have limited access to students in public school classrooms," Griffin said. "Participating in the carnival is beneficial for them on many levels. SFA online students have the opportunity to plan and develop a mathematics lesson or activity that truly answers questions many elementary students pose, 'Why is math important?' and 'When am I ever going to use it?'"

More than 40 SFA students participated in the event this semester. SFA students created and implemented activities for their booths, which served approximately 200 fourth and fifth-grade students at Raguet Elementary School.

"One of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills teachers struggle with is making connections to the real-world. This event helps our students and Raguet teachers see that connections are everywhere and can easily be made for students," Montgomery said. "One SFA student prepared for her booth by visiting her local airport and talking with pilots. By simply seeking out that real-world connection, she was able to design her activities and now has a partnership with the local airport for her future students."

In another booth, SFA students created an activity where participants explored the career of a baker who must use decimals and fractions to correctly portion and serve cake. Students also built another booth where participants discovered how engineers use multiplication of decimals to design and build various aviation and space-flight apparatuses.

"Actual facilitation of the activity at the carnival provided multiple scenarios for SFA students to quickly monitor and adjust instruction to fit the needs of individual learners because fourth and fifth-graders rotated in and out of the booths constantly during the two-hour carnival," Griffin said.