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In Franklin County, Massachusetts, students are making mathematical connections with "The Math Connection" television show, and the results are quite exciting.
Johnny NoMath is in trouble again! This week, he is wrestling a boa constrictor that slithers around his neck and arms and back. He valiantly but futilely tries to measure its length with a tape measure. Hopelessly entangled, he stares at the camera and says, "I wish I learned to solve problems when I was a kid." The scene shifts back to the television studio, where local elementary school students present the solutions to problems they have solved. Not a single Johnny NoMath appears among them! It's Monday night, and we are watching "The Math Connection" on television.
"The Math Connection" is a joint project of the Greenfield Community College television studio and mathematics department, program director Karen Green and an advisory council composed of local teachers. The show airs once a week for sixteen weeks on public access cable television and is intended for students in grades 3-7 and their families. Its purpose is twofold: first, it tries to show schoolchildren that mathematics is a vital, useful subject by making connections between mathematics and the daily pursuits of local workers and craftspeople. Second, it tries to affect the attitudes of both students and teachers by showing them that alternatives for teaching and learning mathematics are available that go far beyond rote techniques and pencil-and-paper computations. Its goal is to make mathematics exciting and engage students in the truly creative process that is its essence.
This article presents the content and structure of "The Math Connection" and describes the open-ended problems on which students work to prepare for the show. Readers should keep in mind that their school need not have its own television show to replicate the successes of this program. The activities that are described can be accomplished in the classroom alone.
"The Math Connection":
Every Story Has a
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The idea for "The Math Connection" was conceived by Greenfield Community College's Linda Cavanaugh, Lynn Benander, and Ira Rubenzahl. They recognized that television could be a powerful tool for instilling positive mathematical attitudes and for sharing and modeling an alternative approach to teaching and doing mathematics. Consequently, in spring …