Pop quiz: Look at the above picture and answer “How many?”
Your first response is probably: “How many what?” And that’s the point.
ESD 112 Math Coordinator Molly Daley is on a mission to engage young kids and their grownups with open-ended games like these to promote math thinking and interaction at an early age and instill the mindset that math is fun.
“For most of us, math was something we had to do at school, not something we would choose to do for fun. We were given a narrow idea of what it means to do math.” says Daley. “As parents we can easily pass negative or limited views about mathematics on to our children, and this project is to help change that.”
After receiving a grant from the Washington STEM Network in 2017, Daley first partnered with the Vancouver Community Library in downtown Vancouver, WA. During popular storytime events, Daley distributed library-themed postcards with math games to families and explained the concept. The games on the cards include photos taken of objects in the Early Learning Center of the library, which helps strengthen the idea that math is found anywhere and everywhere, not just in the classroom.
In 2018, Daley expanded the reach of Math Anywhere in the Vancouver community and across the country. Thanks to a social media connection, the Movies in the Park series in Chicago featured Daley’s candy- and popcorn-themed math games in their promotional reel over the summer. Currently, Juliano’s Pizzeria in Vancouver has Daley’s pizza-themed Math on your Menu games under the glass tops of their tables.
Daley also has a Pop-up Math Play tent that she sets up at various events around town to promote math fun.
“We notice some hesitance to start playing at first, and this seems to be especially true with adults,” notes Daley. “People might walk by and not engage the first time they pass our play tables. Usually they will circle back, and, once people start playing, they can become very immersed, trying out ideas and exploring curiosities.”
Despite the end of the grant funding, the Math Anywhere project is ongoing with support from ESD 112. Daley has a series of YouTube videos on how to play the games online and is working on placing downloadable materials and other content on her blog.