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Children using the Web to learn math skills

May 11, 1998
Web posted at: 1:41 PM EDT (1341 GMT)

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- The terms "Fun with Fractions" and "Wonderful World of Geometry" should elicit moans and groans from second-graders, right?

Not in Annette VanAken's elementary school class.

There, the kids are begging to learn about halves, fourths, and fifths. They're actually requesting lessons on squares, triangles and circles.

And it's all thanks to a group of college students.

Ms. VanAken's husband, Troy, is an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Evansville. VanAken's students developed a series of Web sites on the Internet to help second-graders master the math skills they'll need to pass ISTEP+.

The pages, based on Indiana's Math Proficiency Guide, are colorful and highly interactive, with characters such as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.

On the Pooh page, kids can add and subtract Pooh's honey jars. The Fun with Fractions page includes a group of cartoon kids and asks questions such as, "What fraction of the kids has blond hair?"

The pages include practice lessons and word problems. If kids get the right answers, characters dance across the screen.

"It's been absolutely wonderful," Ms. VanAken said. "The kids just love it."

Shawn Southwell, 8, said he likes the geometry.

"It's fun," he said. "I like to learn the solids and the corners. It (the Internet pages) tells us more about it so we'll know what to do."

Ms. VanAken and her husband came up with the idea for the Internet pages while they were brainstorming for each of their classes.

Ms. VanAken wanted fun activities for her students to learn math. VanAken, who is also vice president for instructional technology at UE, wanted worthwhile projects for his college students.

"My students have done projects in the past, but it was just stuff they presented to the class. It had no meaning," VanAken said. "This was stuff the (Stockwell) students could actually use. That was the benefit."

Ms. VanAken provided her husband with the Indiana math proficiencies, and VanAken gave his students the task of developing Internet pages for the Stockwell kids.

VanAken instructed his students -- to include links to their own home pages, where Stockwell kids could e-mail them and ask questions.

"I had my staff work with them so they wouldn't be distracted by all of the technical stuff," VanAken said.

Eight groups of four college students developed the pages in about a month and a half. Ms. VanAken and her students began using the pages recently.

VanAken said he couldn't be happier with how well the project is working.

"I'm elated," he said. "You're always dreaming that things will be really great, but in this case, I can honestly say it turned out as good as I was dreaming."

Stockwell will begin "looping" teachers next year, which means Ms. VanAken will have her second-graders for the third grade, too. Since she'll have the same students, Ms. VanAken plans to expand and reuse the Internet math program next year.

"We want to do more Web pages and include more subjects like language arts," she said. "We'd like to do some pages with teaching students at USI (the University of Southern Indiana)."

Ms. VanAken said the experience the teaching students are getting from developing the Internet pages is invaluable.

"What they've done is just awesome," she said. "This will make them better teachers."

To view the Internet pages, go to:, and select the button labeled "class web projects."

A Java-enabled browser is required to view the pages, and most popular browser programs such as Internet Explorer 4.0 will work.


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