From The Northern Star (NIU student newspaper), Wednesday, February 13, 2002


Math lab expands students' resources

By Lynn Celmer, Staff Reporter

[Caption] Math 402, Methods of Instruction for Math, K-9, instructor Ellen Hines reviews a problem for her students. The Math Education Lab contains a variety of resources to aid prospective math teachers, including pattern blocks, geoboards and base blocks, as well as journals and books.

In NIU's Math Education Lab, brightly colored Macintosh computers sit all in a row.

Hundreds of Tupperware containers line the shelves on the wall, each containing a different material used in demonstrating math concepts, such as pattern blocks, geoboards and base blocks.

The shelves on both sides of the room are filled with math journals and books.

About 20 students began to pile into DuSable Hall, Room 306, for Math 402, Methods of Instruction for Math, K-9. This class is different in that the students become the teachers.

Students are required to demonstrate how to complete a problem. They were given a sample problem involving Auntie Mae, a candy store owner who received an order for 432 pieces of candy. She got a call asking her to mail the candy in three separate equal packages. How much candy will be in each package?

Students used base boards to simulate how the candy would be divided. The boards consist of flats, which are 10-by-10, or 100 squares; rods, which are 10 squares long and units, which are single squares.

The students first divided the flats into three groups, then the rods and the individual units. Exchanges were made if necessary.

They determined that 144 pieces of candy would be in each package.

The students then watched a video in which this same procedure was used with actual children. The children responded well to this method and showed an understanding of division.

NIU math professors feel that the lab, which is used for all the math methods courses, contains many useful resources for the students, including hundreds of current teaching books and journals.

Helen Khoury, a math professor, said students understand something best when they have to teach it to someone else.

"The math education lab contains a remarkable collection of materials for prospective teachers," said Mary Shafer, a math professor.

Shafer said many of the materials aid in developing students' understanding of place value, fractions and decimals, and concepts in geometry and measurement.

© 2002 Northern Star. All Rights Reserved.