SIUE Student Teachers Add Math and Fun to Breakfast Time for Eager Elementary Learners

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MathGames1A broad smile replaced a tentative look after a second-grader at Eastwood Elementary School in East Alton learned how to multiply for the first time. Her teacher, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville junior Ashley Scottoriva, could not help but to let her own face erupt into a big grin. 

Approximately 60 SIUE elementary education teacher candidates completed their final Eastwood Before School Math Group Instruction on Friday, Nov. 2, according to Barbara Martin, EdD, assistant professor in the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior’s Department of Teaching and Learning. 

Eastwood students receive a free breakfast in the gym each day before school begins. Martin thought it would be good to introduce math into the equation. 

MathGames2SIUE elementary education majors selected those interested in learning and strengthening their math skills and took them to a separate room to play math games. After approximately 15 minutes, the future educators returned to the gym for the second and final group of the morning. The program was offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Sept. 14-Nov. 2. SIUE students worked with more than 100 elementary learners. 

“SIUE has an established a partnership with Eastwood since about 2014, thanks to Dr. Brian Johnson,” said Martin. “When we learned that students were coming to school for breakfast, we wanted to do something more.” 

“Besides adding enrichment,” Martin interjected, “I also wanted to provide an opportunity for my juniors to gain math teaching experience.” 

“Student teachers prepared for the sessions by creating more than 100 file folders of fun math games and activities,” said junior Tiffany Katka. “I loved getting to know each of the students I worked with. I typically worked with second and third graders.” 

In another case where a student was reluctant to try her hand at multiplication, Katka gave her a gentle nudge. 

“I told her it was OK not to know all the answers, and we would work on them together,” Katka said. “She agreed to play the game. We went step-by-step through each problem, until she was doing it on her own. For me, it proved that sometimes all learners need is a few minutes of one-on-one instruction.” 

“I was very pleased with the program,” said Alyssa Smith, director of Curriculum and Instruction for the East Alton School District #13. “Our students asked for the ‘big kids’ to come every morning. Our elementary students thought the SIUE students were ‘cool,’ so it made math in the morning cool as well.” 

“The Eastwood Elementary students were happy to interact with adults,” added Brian Johnson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. “Attention from an adult is the coin of the realm.” 

“The extra practice that SIUE students provided our elementary students was evident on their STAR (Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading) monthly scores,” noted Smith. 

“The students loved having us there, not only to work on fun math games, but also just to talk,” said Sottorvia. “It was a nice way to get their brain juices flowing and start the day.” 

Smith hopes the program will continue and expand. “I’d like to see the SIUE students come every day. We’re going to need a bigger room!” 

The SIUE School of Education, Health and Human Behavior prepares students in a wide range of fields including community and public health, exercise science, nutrition, instructional technology, psychology, speech-language pathology and audiology, educational administration and teaching. Faculty members engage in leading-edge research, which enhances teaching and enriches the educational experience. The School supports the community through on-campus clinics, outreach to children and families, and a focused commitment to enhancing individual lives across the region. 

Eastwood Elementary student Trinity Smith listens intently to instructions from SIUE senior Amy Herpel. 

SIUE junior Tyler Wheeler and Eastwood student Zayden Baisull talk multiplication.