Fourth grade students are benefiting from college age pen pals writing about math and helping them solve problems.

Pen Pals Writing About MathBucknell University’s aspiring teachers sent math problems to the fourth grade students at Linntown Intermediate School. The students were enthusiastic about solving the new challenges.

Teacher Alaina Foresman found out about the pen pal program from a predecessor and has continued it for the past three years. Students benefit by getting an advance look at math lessons that will be presented later.  They meet with the preservice teachers in person, which leads to the letter exchanges.  And the Bucknell students get to see how to communicate with fourth graders who are studying angles and shapes.

Lara Dick, assistant professor of mathematics believes that her Bucknell students’ abilities to assess and understand fourth graders mental processes is enhanced.

“My students begin by getting to know a little about their pen pals and then conduct a one-on-one interview with each student, during which they have the fourth-graders sort a bunch of shapes into piles that are similar. They ask the children to do this in as many ways as possible,” said Professor Dick. “After conducting the interviews, my students analyze their pen pal’s mathematical thinking (and) choose a geometric topic to focus on for the semester.”

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