The drumming stopped around her, but fifth-grader Paige Penn was still grooving on her solo conga.
“Oops,” she said, looking around at her classmates and laughing. “I was in the moment.”
The impromptu December drum circle was part of a lively on-campus meeting of the Mighty Math Club, an afterschool math program for elementary school children in several schools from Fairfield to New Haven. Started about six years ago by Dr. Jennifer Goldberg, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, club members rank in the hundreds and some schools have a waiting list of students clamoring to get in.
And it’s no wonder. In addition to afterschool meetings, the students get to travel to Fairfield each year for “Connect-the-Dots,” a program that reveals the math present in everyday activities, such as fine arts, music, dance, and yoga. In addition to the drum rhythm lesson taught by Dr. Laura Nash, professor of music, school groups from St. Martin de Porres and Amistad academies of New Haven and Bridgeport’s Six-to-Six Magnet School discussed travel and logistics with the Rev. Charles Allen, S.J., executive assistant to the president, and bent and stretched with Ashley Freeman, a GSEAP student teacher who offered a short yoga session. “Listen to your body,” she encouraged children leaning forward in their school clothes. “Be mindful of what your body is telling you – and what your pants are telling you.”
In February, Fairfield welcomed about 120 junior high school students as part of the annual MATHCOUNTS Competition, a national contest in which students work on fun and creative problems that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Dr. Joe Dennin, professor of mathematics, has coordinated the Southwest Connecticut chapter’s competition for several years. “A lot of kids at that age think that math is not always a cool thing,” he said, “so it’s great when they all have a chance to meet and work with others who like math.”
The club recently received $17,500 from Trustee Patti Glassford ’85 through GE’s Chairman’s Award.