Of course, it was math. It was the worst kind of four-letter word.
But that can't be said at Weehawken's Webster School, where they have turned arithmetic (just that word sends shivers down some spines) into a pastime.
Last fall, art teacher Donna Mansmann went to a seminar and heard a presentation by renowned teacher Barbara Pearl, who has turned a unique combination of origami (paper-folding) art and math into a fun idea.
"Barbara Pearl's program turns making origami shapes by using math skills and answering math questions," said Webster School Principal Anthony Colasurdo. "It sounded fascinating to us. We really needed something to do exciting with math, where we could get the entire family involved. This sounded like it."
Colasurdo sat down with Webster School math coordinator Jeannine Muneyyirci to discuss the possibilities of having such a unique program at Webster.
"It was wonderful," Muneyyrici said. "The kids really needed something with math to make it fun, and this was something they could do every day."
The program was called "Passport to Math," and it included all of the school's students, grades pre-kindergarten through second. Pearl, who made the presentation to the convention attended by Mansmann in the fall, brought the program to Weehawken last week.
Passport out of paper
In the program, the students and their parents were asked to make a passport out of a single sheet of paper and then head off to the different stations around the Webster School gym that featured instructions how to make origami figures, like birds, fish, houses, and sailboats, through folding paper.
"There were instructions how to make the figures at each station," Muneyyirci said. "So the parents had to help the children do the folds to make the figures."
At each station, the student was then asked a math question that he or she had to answer correctly. If they made the figure and answered the math question, they received a stamp on their passport and they were able to move on to the next destination.
"When they completed the six stations and the math challenges, they received a certificate for the entire family and a fortune cookie," Muneyyirci said. "The whole thing started with a single piece of paper."
More than 129 students participated and with their parents in attendance, there were more than 300 people inside Webster School's gymnasium.
The event was sponsored by the Webster School Parent-Teacher Participation Association.
"It really made it exciting for the kids," Muneyyirci said. "I could tell that the parents were really excited as well. The kids were doing their math and they were having fun. They were only required to have four stations done, but they all made sure they went to every single one. That's how interested they were. I think it was important that all the ages of the children got involved. They were all able to do it, because they can all fold paper."
"It was very different," Colasurdo said. "It combined math skills with art work. It was a night out, away from the television set for most of them and enabled them to do something with their parents and their siblings."