Mathnasium + PTA: Helping Your Child Succeed

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(Sponsored Post) 

Across the nation, Mathnasium’s neighborhood math experts are working with PTA’s parent leaders toward a common goal—building stronger communities through quality education! Becky McDaniels, owner of Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.—and a dedicated PTA member for over two decades—is a great example of this collaboration.

“PTA does so much for teachers and schools, and I wanted to be a part of it and make a difference,” Becky recalled.

As a mom and former teacher at public, private and charter schools, Becky’s worn many a PTA hat. She’s served on her local unit’s board, penned newsletters, driven fundraising initiatives from the ground level, bridged the gap between parents and educators as teacher liaison and served on event committees.

Mathnasium’s collaboration with National PTA through the STEM + Families initiative provided yet another avenue for Becky to show support once her children left school and she transitioned out of classroom teaching.

Now a business owner and STEM advocate, Becky’s math expertise takes center stage. Whether she’s presenting at PTA meetings, engaging families through fun in-school math nights or contributing to fundraising efforts, Becky’s clearly in her element. Many years after her first PTA meeting, she still finds it incredibly fulfilling to see a large scale project come to fruition and glows happily with every “thank you” she receives.

Colleen Horan Green, PTSA vice president at Randall Middle School, offered one such “thank you” to Becky. “Mathnasium of Brandon sought us out and became actively involved in supporting our events,” Colleen recalled.

“Now we are working together to create a seminar to help parents like me support our children in seventh-grade math. As a PTSA member, I’m looking at our common goals and filling the needs with Mathnasium.”

“The fact that Mathnasium exists is wonderful,” Colleen added. “They provide so many resources at any level, work in tandem with the curriculum, reach out to teachers and help us better serve our students. It’s more than just a partnership; they really do go above and beyond to understand needs at every school.”

For Becky and her team, the future brings more school sponsorships and fundraising as they host the Mathnasium TriMathlon the weekend of November 5 and 6. Mathnasium donates money to schools for every student who participates in this fun, free math competition. Find the event nearest you and help raise funds for your PTA!


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA and was invited to contribute a blog post as a benefit of this relationship. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of Mathnasium is implied. Learn more at PTA.org/Sponsors.

#PTA4STEM Thought Leaders Meeting

stem meetingOn March 22, National PTA and Bayer USA Foundation convened industry leaders, educators, association and corporate executives, government officials and family engagement researchers to launch National PTA’s STEM Initiative.

STEM has been a hot topic in education over the past few years. Nearly 8.6 million science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs represented 6.2 percent of U.S. employment in May 2015. In addition, the Administration has made significant strides to close the access and equity gaps in STEM education.

So what does this mean for us and your local PTAs? Family engagement is essential to strengthen STEM education and help all children realize their fullest potential, and we are here to support student success in STEM. National PTA’s STEM Initiative aims to model what effective family engagement looks like in STEM by engaging entire families in STEM activities.

A recent survey commissioned by Bayer underscores the importance of family engagement to STEM education. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Parents are most likely to say that they play the biggest role in stimulating their child’s interest in science (46%), followed closely by teachers (44%).
  • Nearly one-third (31%) of parents don’t feel confident enough in their scientific knowledge to help their children engage in hands-on science activities.
  • Almost one-third (32%) of teachers say parent support or involvement at home would be most helpful in increasing hands-on science learning experiences.

The STEM Thought Leaders Meeting was filled with innovation and excitement—participants broke out into groups and brainstormed on the concept of “What is STEM?” and talked about effective family engagement STEM practices at school.

What does family engagement in STEM look like for you? Comment below. Check out our Storify and presentation to see what happened at STEM Thought Leaders event.

How Robots are Teaching STEM to a New Generation

STEM(Sponsored Post)

When it comes to getting kids interested in STEM learning, there’s one word that works every time—robots.

In fact, the potential for robots is so promising to help draw student interest in STEM, that robots have been given their own week. This year, April 2-10 is National Robotics Week, which in addition to celebrating the U.S. as a global robotics leader, is raising awareness among educators, parents and children about the benefits of incorporating a robotics curriculum.

And while the idea of using robots in the classroom may have seem farfetched a few years ago, a growing number of affordable robot kits for students are entering the market. This makes robots a more realistic option for many schools and educational programs.

Here at the Sylvan Learning Center I oversee in Lafayette, La., we started offering two levels of robotics classes for grades 2-4 and 4-6 in 2014, shortly after Sylvan added the concept in its national curriculum.

The robots are so popular that it’s often difficult to get students to stop working on them once class is over. And while they are fun for the kids, they are truly educational. Designing and building programmable robots bring to life math, physics and engineering concepts.

Students as young as 7 are introduced to the amazing world of robotics by building and programming robots and engaging in friendly competitions using LEGO® bricks and award-winning software. Once a concept is introduced, the students begin to create and program complex robots with friends while learning problem-solving skills and engineering concepts. Kids are soon making calculations and gaining exposure to computational thinking on their own accord. They’re also learning programming skills as they command their bots to move!

The robots can be designed in the form of familiar objects such as animals, people and vehicles as well as more abstract concepts purpose-built for the task.

We find this engagement really encourages students who may have otherwise previously been intimidated or uninterested in STEM subjects. Given the tremendous educational and career opportunities that will be available to these children as they grow older, it is critical we use all the tools we have in order to reach them.

Sylvan is a financial sponsor of PTA as Member Benefit Provider.


Christy Sharon, a former grade school and high school teacher, has been executive director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Lafayette, La. since 1997.

 

Gender Bias Still Holds Girls Back in STEM

Monica Nicolau ProfileWomen have historically been responsible for some of the greatest achievements in science, technology, engineering and math—from the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge to writing the first computer code. Unfortunately, women’s accomplishments have been limited by gender bias that persists today—even among well-intentioned parents and educators.

With Women’s History Month being celebrated now in March, this is a great opportunity to both honor women’s achievements in STEM as well as reflect on how we start eliminating these biases.

Without a doubt, our attitudes toward equal opportunity among the sexes have come a long way in recent decades. However, many parents and educators still let traditional gender stereotypes influence the way they treat girls. In fact, one survey found that parents were more likely to discuss an acting career than a STEM career with their daughters by a 2-to-1 margin.

Providing girls with positive exposure to STEM fields from an early age is critical if we want to keep them interested in the subject. A recent study by the Girl Scouts of America Research Institute found that girls who knew someone working in the STEM field, or who were exposed to STEM activities, were more likely to have an interest in STEM.

This is something I can personally relate to. My fondest memories about growing up are the Saturdays I spent with my father, a marine engineer, at his office. He designed complex electrical systems that kept some of the world’s most massive ships humming. This early exposure was enough for me to develop an interest in STEM that eventually propelled me into software engineering.

Unfortunately, gender bias means many girls do not receive the exposure that I did. This has resulted in a workforce where women only make up a quarter of STEM employees, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce—a figure that has been shrinking in recent years. In high-demand, growing fields like computer science and software engineering, women make up even lower percentages.

The first step to solving the problem begins with awareness. We must first be aware that these biases continue to exist at home and in the classroom and understand their impact. We must also pay close attention to our own actions and reflect on the ways we interact with and evaluate girls and determine what unconscious signals we might be sending.

When we do this, we may notice patterns in our own behavior that we may have been unaware of. Once we identify these patterns, we can begin working to change them and ensure the girls are equally encouraged when it comes to pursuing STEM.

It benefits us all when both halves of the human population are working to solve the biggest challenges in fields like computer science, physics, environmental engineering and medicine.


Monica Nicolau is chief technology officer for Sylvan Learning. Prior to Sylvan, Ms. Nicolau worked at Micros Systems, Inc., now Oracle Hospitality, where she held a variety of roles, including director of software engineering. She earned her master’s degree in computer science at Johns Hopkins University.

Parent-Teacher Partnership Results in Trip to the White House

STEm-NSF“There are so many great teachers out there that need to be recognized,” says former local Virginia PTA president Christie Olsen. A few years ago, Christie took her own advice and nominated her twin daughters’ teacher, Stephanie Chlebus, for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Stephanie went on to become the 2012 PAEMST awardee for mathematics in Virginia, for which she received a certificate signed by the President, a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a trip for two to Washington, D.C., where she met President Obama.

“Stephanie is unique as a teacher, in that she makes every single one of her students feel like they are just as good as the next student in mathematics,” explains Christie, who was able to see this first hand with her daughters. “She’s always willing to provide more challenges for students that are excelling, while using her talents to find innovative ways to teach the kids that might not be getting it.”

Building Partnerships and Keeping Communication Open

As we all know, the relationship between parent and teacher is an important one. Christie nominated her daughters’ teacher, Stephanie, for the PAEMST award because she had built a partnership with her. To do this, according to Christie, there must be trust between all parties that everyone (parent, teacher, administrator, etc.) is acting in the best interest of the child. Once that is established, open communication is the best way to build the parent-teacher partnership. “One party can’t shut out the other. It just won’t work,” Christie advises.

On the other end, as the teacher, Stephanie has instituted several initiatives to foster collaboration between herself and the parents of her students. She emails parents every week to give them an idea of the objectives and content that will be taught in the upcoming days. This enables parents to have deeper conversations with their children about what’s going on in the classroom and what they’re learning each day. She also engages parents and families with several events, such as family math game night and parent Academy night.

What’s Stephanie’s advice for parents who are thinking about getting more involved in the PTA or volunteering in their child’s classroom? “Do it!” She stresses, though, to remember that every teacher is different. While some teachers may be dying for volunteers, other teachers may not be comfortable (or are not allowed) to have parent volunteers in the classroom. She suggests you offer your help and give the teacher the opportunity to tell you what they need. Like Christie, she stresses the importance of open communication.

Stephanie also points out that without the support of the PTA at her school, she wouldn’t have been able to put on the events that families love. “A strong PTA that supports its teachers, results in teachers who can run more initiatives to help its students,” she adds.

Recognizing Teachers for Outstanding Work

The importance of being nominated for PAEMST by a parent was not lost on Stephanie. “I know my colleagues see me working day in and day out to make learning relevant to students, but to have that come across to a parent through her children’s love and desire for math meant the world to me,” she shares. “Having a parent nominate me for PAEMST was the biggest compliment I can receive as a teacher.”

Both Stephanie and Christie note that parents can be involved in recognizing great teachers. Stephanie says that several parents pulled together student quotes for her PAEMST application, which helped give her application a personal touch. Christie suggests nominating the exceptional teachers in your school for awards like PAEMST.

“Any way you can recognize a great teacher for being great, or motivate them to keep doing a great job, is essential. It’s a great loss when outstanding teachers get disillusioned and leave the profession. Even if they don’t apply, and it’s just a nomination, you are still recognizing that they are going above and beyond for their students.”

Learn more about PAEMST and how to nominate a great teacher in your child’s life by April 1.


 

Dr. Nafeesa Owens is the program lead to the Presidential Awards for Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teaching program at the National Science Foundation. Most importantly, she is the mother of twin boys who are in kindergarten and is a local PTA member.