Reprinted from the Jacksonville Daily News
DAILY NEWS STAFF
Nikki and Tiny Smith were throwing dice and adding the numbers.
Next, they marked the total number in squares on a preprinted sheet. If it sounds like a game that's because it was - Raging Rectangles. The students at Northwoods Elementary School and their parents were playing together as a fun way to learn math.
It's all part of Onslow County's new Parents Utilizing Standards at Home or PUSH, said Louisa Ringo, the local coordinator for the N.C. Partnership for Improving Math and Science.
Onslow County is one of 12 school systems in the eastern part of the state participating in a pilot program called N.C. Partnership for Improving Math and Science, Ringo said. The program started through a grant last fall, but the parental piece had not been added until the end of this school year.
"Schools want to help parents so they can help their children," Ringo said. "And school is nothing like it was when they went to school."
Tiny Smith, Nikki's grandmother and guardian, said she found the workshop helpful. When the fourth-grader brings homework in, it's often Tiny Smith or her husband, Doug, who end up helping Nikki.
"It's hard to keep up," Tiny Smith said. "It's been a long time since I went to school and things have changed since my kids went to school, too."
The workshops, which have been taking place at all the elementary schools in the county, provide teachers an opportunity to work with parents on what can often be confusing subjects, said Eve Reddic, a Northwoods teacher and Partnership for Improving Math and Science coordinator.
"The workshops provide parents with insight into how and why instruction practices have changed," Reddic told a group of about 10 families. "There are many ways you can support your students at home."
She explained that the evening was designed for parents to learn like their children do, with the same kinds of games and exercises.
"School is just so different than it used to be when you or I attended," Reddic said. "I want you to think about how you were taught when you attended elementary school."
It used to be there was a limited acceptance of students helping each other. The focus was on drills and practice, formulas and memorization with little understanding of why things were done, Reddic said.
Nowadays, students usually sit in groups in the classroom. That way they can help each other and work together to solve problems, she said.
"Back then, most teachers expected their students to duplicate their computation methods," Reddic said. "There was no talking among students, limited curriculum."
Now, elementary school students begin early to learn skills that will be continually built upon in future grades.
"With the workshops, we are trying to connect parents with the standard course of study and how skills are being taught and how they are sequential or build from elementary to high school," Ringo said. "You learn one skill and then move to the next level."
Historically, science hasn't been a focus in elementary schools. But that is no longer the case, she said. Beginning in 2007, elementary and middle school students will be tested on science as well as reading, math and writing.
"So science can no longer be something you do for fun at the end of the day when everything else has been done," Ringo said. "It is being taught systematically and has become an important part of the elementary curriculum."
During the evening, Reddic gave away some fun gifts to ticket holders. She called numbers at random. Some of the prizes included a telescope, microscope, electronic math games and more.
Each family was given a standard course of study list which outlined the objectives for each elementary grade and a math glossary.
"That will help them understand when their children ask questions about homework," Ringo said. "This a real neat model because there are not many things like that out there that give parents concrete tools to support their child's classroom instruction."
Contact staff writer Diane Mouskourie at dmouskourie@freedom enc.com or 353-1171, Ext. 235.