- Sponsorship -

Family Math Night Puts Fun in Learning

Playing math games with your mom and dad might not sound like fun, but it packed the gym recently at Godfrey Elementary. About 250 students, parents and teachers crowded around tables as Calvin College students led them in games like Sweet 13, Sum What Dice, Pig and High Roller as part of Family Math Night.

A good time, yes, but also a valuable time for getting students interested in math and for future teachers to see how students learn.

Debbie Schuitema, Godfrey-Lee K-8 math coach, said many students look at math as something they just can’t do, and that research shows parents can have a big effect on why they think this way.  “If the mother is negative about math, and says it’s too hard, that can lead a child to say ‘I can’t do it either.’ It makes it OK to not be good with math,” she said.

The math night was aimed at building a different mindset, one where students think “if it’s A math game set up to play hard, I just haven’t learned it, but don’t give up just because it’s hard,” Schuitema said.  “They need to be flexible and believe they can grow their intelligence. We can all do it, it just might take more time for some people.”

Calvin College math professor Janice Koop, who has worked with the school before, helped plan the event with Schuitema. (Her work is helping students at Wyoming Public Schools too – see the Wyoming story here.)

Calvin students led games at tables spread around the gym. Elementary students could rotate from table to table, where simple items like dice and cards were used to play the games. If a student played three games, he or she got a raffle ticket to win prizes like T-shirts and gift certificates. They also were given instructions to the games they had played so they could play them again at home.

“That was our goal — getting things they could do at home to support math,” Schuitema said.

Third-grader George Reyes-Arriga played Sweet Thirteen with his father Jorge. “You can play with your dad,” he said grinning, when asked why he wanted to come to the event. As Dad smiled back, he added, “It makes it fun.”

Playing Sum What Dice were David Zamora and his children, first-grade Javier and kindergartner Adriana.  “They’re having fun, and they can learn more math,” Zamora said.

Calvin student Sara Conrad played The Factor Game with fourth-grader Mya Trabalka, explaining to her that figuring out what numbers go into other numbers would build the foundation for learning algebra.

Family Math Night wasn’t all about the elementary students. It also taught the college students how to teach better. The event was a class project for Koop’s math students, who developed the games and came to the school earlier in the day to teach them to students.

Godfrey Elementary Family Math Night “It’s good for our students to be in the classrooms and learn what to do to adapt for different students,” Koop said. Future math nights are planned with the help of Grand Valley State students.


Godfrey Elementary School

First Graders See, Touch and Talk Numbers

- Sponsorship -
Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.


Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...

Rain gutter regatta showcases buoyancy, engineering skills

An annual boat race has become a highlight of sixth-grade science class. At stake: bragging rights and 'a goofy trophy'...

The Hood family: a school & community leadership dynasty

Five generations have lived within a five- to six-mile radius dating back to a government work program in the 1930s...

The sky’s the limit (or is it?) for this accomplished model builder

Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Satellite library aims to boost reading for the fun of it

The Kent District Library location opened this week, and is exclusively for East Lee Campus students and their families...

Voters approve bond request by 2-to-1 margin

The approval of the $17.79 million bond will restore and renovate Lee Middle and High School, which was badly damaged by a June 2019 roof collapse...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU