Education News

Students Sharpen Math Skills In Nontraditional Summer Classroom

School may be out for the summer, but a lot of kids are still trying to stay sharp. Some of them are brushing up on their math skills to prepare for next year and they’re far from a traditional classroom.

This is United Way’s third annual event called “Have a Ball with Math.”
This is United Way’s third annual event called “Have a Ball with Math.”

School may be out for the summer, but a lot of kids are still trying to stay sharp. Some of them are brushing up on their math skills to prepare for next year and they’re far from a traditional classroom.

It’s the bottom of the ninth and the scoreboard says it’s neck and neck. It’s game day at Minute Maid Park, but players on this field don’t have bats and mitts. Instead, kids are gathered at round tables and they’re armed with pencils and scraps of notebook paper. This is no ordinary round of baseball. This is a game of trivia, and it’s a bit more algebraic.

“We were doing like multiplications, divisions, and we were doing a lot of math,” said 11-year-old Nathan Leal.

He’s here with more than 300 other Houston sixth graders.

His buddy Victoria Gonzalez explains.

“We’re actually here for the math stuff, for the United Way Club and for the Astros game,” she said.

This is United Way’s third annual event called “Have a Ball with Math.” It gives students the chance to experience firsthand where baseball and math intersect.

“I want them to understand that geometry lives in another place other than the chalkboard– that it lives here on the baseball field and it lives out in the real world,” said Najah Callander with the United Way of Greater Houston.

Students worked on some of those hands-on applications. They added measurements to build a replica of the baseball park and learned about statistics for batting averages.

The United Way teamed up with Conoco Phillips and the Houston Astros to put the event together. Ty Johnson with Conoco Phillips says they want to make sure kids have the skills they need to succeed.

“In Houston, Conoco Phillips has put a focus on math education, particularly algebra one, and students doing great in algebra one and then graduating high school and then going off to college,” Johnson said.

Organizers hope this kind of activity will inspire them to see how math is applied in the real world. 11-year-old Victoria Gonzalez already has a pretty clear grasp of

“I think it can help me with my bills and for vacation,” she said.

Programs like this one also try to prevent what’s called the “summer slide.” It’s a tendency for students to lose what they learned during the school year over summer break.

Neuroscientists have found that the brain has the ability to grow as it is stimulated. But without stimulation, it shrinks.

Kids are particularly prone to losing their math skills over the summer because outside of the classroom, they don’t really have a chance to exercise them.

“These children are all in summer school, so they are academically struggling. So what we do is go into the summer school day and provide an additional hour of math enrichment,” Callander said.

At Minute Maid Park, the day wasn’t just about numbers and equations.

The kids also watched the Houston Astros play against the Los Angeles Angels. For some young sports fans like Nathan, this was the most exciting part. He has a personal connection to one of the players.

“I really wanna see Valbuena. My dad’s from Venezuela, Maracaibo, and Valbuena used to play for the Aguilas and now he’s playing for the Astros, and I really wanna see him,” he said.

For others like Victoria, the thrill was in her very first baseball game.

“I’m hoping that somebody will catch a ball, me or somebody, cause I’m so excited for the game. This is my first time being to the Astros game,” she said.

At the end she got to celebrate a victory for the Astros.

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