PRIEST RIVER — Math isn’t as scary as you think it is, said Priest River Elementary School’s sixth-grade math teacher Mike Keating Jan. 19. To prove it, PRE Principal Connie Kimble and her staff will host Math Night on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Free dinner provided by the Sandpoint Assembly of God will be available from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Then from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Keating and his fellow math teachers will hold back-to-back, 30 minute-long sessions explaining to parents what students are learning in class. Sessions will be tailored to different grade levels, said Kimble, and parents are invited to sit in on sessions at grade levels of their choosing. During the sessions, kids will be led through math games and activities in the gym, she added.
Keating said that many parents of his students are timid about their childrens’ math educations because they didn’t do well in math when they were kids, or because they think math is taught in a different way now than it was back then. However, Keating said that in reality the same methods apply now as then, only today teachers give students more ways in which to learn math. He said that some students learn it better through visual means, while others prefer the standard formulas of yesteryear. That shouldn’t cause parents to hesitate to work on math with their kids. “You can help kids any way you want to do it,” he said. He said he takes the same approach with students in the classroom. “You don’t have to do it the way the teachers are teaching. Do it any way you want. Just show your work.”
At Math Night, each teacher will take a lesson and show parents how their students are learning it in order to make math more accessible to parents. Teachers are only a small part of the equation, said Keating. “Family is the most important.” He emphasized that while it is socially acceptable to say “I’m not good at math,” it makes no sense and hurts students. People don’t proudly say that they can’t read, he explained, and neither should they cop out of math. “If parents are positive about math, students are more successful.”