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At Hartford's Wish School, A Math Lesson On Taxes And Fun


October 24, 2012

HARTFORD At Wish Elementary School, the sixth-graders in Sherri Ziplow's classroom have been closely following the presidential and local elections, watching the debates, analyzing arguments and preparing for their own vote next month.

On Wednesday, they participated in another time-tested American activity: trying to outsmart the "Taxman."

"We are going to talk about taxes yuck," Linda Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, told the students. "You hear a lot about taxes now with the presidential election... Taxes are never fun. It doesn't matter, paying taxes is just not a fun thing when you get to be an adult."

But turns out schoolchildren don't mind taxes or at least the Taxman math game requiring students to work with fractions, least common multiples and greatest common factors in an attempt to defeat Gojak, who acted as the tax collector.

Gojak visited the North End classroom several hours before greeting nearly 3,000 teachers, including 1,200 from Connecticut, who are expected to attend the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' three-day regional conference that began Wednesday evening at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

Sandra Inga, Hartford schools' director of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), said city science teachers are among those who will attend as the school system moves toward a STEM curriculum.

Conference sessions include "Making Common Core Standards Come Alive Through Hands-On Fractions," "Cracking the Code of Algebra," "Got Linear Equations? Now, Let's See What They Mean" and "Teaching Statistics: Analyzing Voting Data From 'Dancing With The Stars.'"

In the Wish classroom, sixth-grader Christian Rosario confidently punched numbers on his calculator as classmates conferred with each other during Wednesday's game.

"When you've got kids that want to learn, it's fun being a teacher," Gojak said afterward. "This is a very motivating activity. They like the game... It doesn't have to be a worksheet."

Ziplow said students have enjoyed mixing real-world topics with their classwork. For example, teachers and students in third to eighth grade will cast mock ballots for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney on November 6. Ziplow's students will later use the data for graphing and a lesson on percentages.

Students have also been forming their own political parties for a separate school election on November 28. Each party includes candidates for president and vice president, a campaign manager and a media consultant.

One exception: No attack ads. Students have had difficulty coming to terms with what they have seen on television, Ziplow said.

"It's hard for the students because they look at it as a form of bullying. 'How are they allowed to do that?' If you say mean things..."

"It's not right," Christian, 11, said later, solemnly.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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