New Jersey Educator Aims to Help Students Conquer Their Fear of Math

New Jersey Educator Aims to Help Students Conquer Their Fear of Math

EAST ORANGE, NJ—A meeting at the 2019 NCSM/NCTM conference in San Diego between 24® Game inventor Robert Sun and Jaliyla Fraser could have been a typical one, but it turned into so much more. Fraser, Supervisor of Mathematics for grades 6-12 in the East Orange School District’s Division of Curriculum Services, had just pulled off a massively-successful 24 Challenge/Math Madness tournament, and she couldn’t wait to share the excitement with Sun.


24® Game inventor Robert Sun and Jaliyla Fraser meet at First In Math headquarters to discuss creative approaches for urban math education.

“I told Bob how important he has been in my life—and in the lives of my students. The 24 game is a staple in American culture, it literally has impacted the world,” explains Fraser. “I grew up on the game of 24®, it helped me gain automaticity manipulating numbers in many different ways, and I thought it was important for the students and community that I serve in East Orange to have a similar, positive math experience.” Fraser believes that the 24® Game helps students of all ages combat their fear of math because it allows them to engage the subject in a non-threatening way.

“As Jaliyla gave me an overview of what she and her staff did to magnify the competition we soon realized we have a mutual goal of helping students—and adults—become less fearful of math,” says Sun.

After the conference, Fraser emailed Sun several videos of the event, including the preparation and promotion for what came to be known as the 1st Annual Pi Day 24® Game Competition. “I loved how the whole East Orange SD community rallied around the competition,” exclaims Sun. “The videos perfectly captured the high energy unleashed in students, administrators, parents and community leaders.” (Click here for video recap of the event)

Fraser built her tournament around tie-ins with New Jersey STEM Month, Pi Day, and modeled the success of college basketball’s March Madness. “I wanted to give kids something familiar to relate to,” says Fraser. “Using a tournament-bracket approach and treating it just like a sporting event seemed natural, complete with a pre-game national anthem, cheerleaders, halftime show and a DJ!”

She also realized it was crucial for students to see adults conquering their math anxiety. One-half of the Tournament Bracket was made up of students, but the other half were Non-Math Teachers, Parents, community leaders, and some members of the local Police department. “Some of the most resistant participants were the teachers, I had to fight back against the ‘I’m bad at math’ stereotype at every turn.”

 

“In Mathematics, it’s not about how many answers you know, it’s about what you do, and how you behave, when you don’t know how.” —Jaliyla Fraser

 

Fraser looks back on the weeks of preparation as time well spent. “Affecting a change in attitude, that’s big,” says Fraser. She says that most kids decide that math is ‘okay’ after an engaging event like this. “It exposes them to mathematics in a whole new, fun atmosphere.”

Considering all of the excellent feedback from staff and community participants after the competition, the district is in support of making this an annual event, and Fraser intends to continue to use 24® Game as the anchor. Sun has extended his full support for next year’s event, and the two plan to work together in the future toward their common goals.

“Bringing 24® within reach of many different urban communities and school districts across the country is a goal of mine, and one I am happy to say that Robert Sun and I share completely.”

Next week in part two, learn how the event was structured, and why building successful math partnerships within your community is important.

 


Do you have a story you'd like to share?

Email your school's FIM News or photos to:
info@firstinmath.com

If submitting a photo, be sure to identify all persons in the photo in the body of your email.

We will reply via email if we would like to use your picture. Before we can publish your picture, you will need to obtain asigned Release Form from each person, it's easy:

1. Select a form below:
Student Release Form
Student Release Form (Spanish) 
Adult Release Form

2. Forms will download to your computer's download folder (usually Desktop) as PDF files.

3. Print as many forms as you need. Fax signed forms to:
610-258-2180, attention FIM NEWS & NOTES.