Goodwill Math Ambassadors

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A five member team of goodwill math ambassadors has made it their mission to encourage a love of mathematics in elementary schools.

Call him Juanito Appleseed. David Torres Flores came all the way from Mexico to plant a seed in the Salinas Valley that he hopes will grow into a love of mathematics among local children.

Instilling the idea that math is fun and should be a part of daily life starts in preschool and kindergarten, said Flores, a graduate student from Guanajuato.

These math ambassadors are part of a cultural and educational exchange program between Hartnell College and CIMAT, Centro de Investigacion de Matematicas in Guanajuato.

On Wednesday, the quintet was at Los Padres Elementary School in Salinas. They taught some arithmetic and math concepts to groups of students from kindergarteners to third-graders. Using some magic, bubbles, dice, colored paper, straws and a little bit of theatrics, the visitors introduced such concepts as probability, geometry and logic to the primary-level kids.

Goodwill Math Ambassadors

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“Sometimes kids don’t like math because it’s boring or too hard,” Flores said. “So we think that maybe with playing and with puzzles they will have more fun doing it and maybe they will enjoy it more in the future, especially in high school.”

“Oohs” and “ahhs” filled the room as a CIMAT student pulled a hollow cube out of a tub of soapy water. Within the cube was a smaller cube made of bubbles. The same was done with other geometric figures, which got the same response from the children.

During the winter break in January, a group of Salinas teachers, administrators and Hartnell students traveled to CIMAT, an international think tank devoted to math research.

Los Padres Principal Gabriel Ramirez was one of the Salinas educators who spent a week at CIMAT. On Wednesday, he stood by as Los Padres children were engaged by the math games.

“It gives (children) the opportunity to be critical thinkers,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said teaching techniques such as the math games can work in the new Common Core State Standards being installed in the public schools. Common Core requires K-12 learning to go beyond rote memorization and test-taking to more advanced critical thinking skills and analysis. Moving away from simply relying on textbooks and worksheets, Common Core encourages more hands-on learning of concepts and having students apply what they learn through projects and papers.

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Goodwill Math Ambassadors

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