You could tell by the pile of Styrofoam detritus on the desk that the boy had fun. He didn’t follow the rules, but he probably absorbed some math lessons, whether he wanted to or not.
This was Monday at the Rosa Keller Library & Community Center on South Broad Street, where branch manager Sharon Kohl led the site’s first Crazy 8s recreational after-school math program. A nontraditional, hands-on math/arts-and-crafts hybrid offered by Bedtime Math for third- through fifth-graders, the program includes attention-grabbing titles such as Toilet Paper Olympics and Zipline Zoo.
“It’s a way to make math seem more fun. It’s an informal atmosphere with cool gadgets that attracts kids who just want to play. And hopefully, they’ll see that math doesn’t have to be a struggle,” Kohl said.
The New Orleans Public Library had previously drawn a good number of students to Crazy 8s at its Alvar Street branch, and Kohl decided to give it a whirl at the Keller branch. The program will repeat again, but most likely after the summer, a time when the library’s emphasis is on reading programs, said library spokesman John Marc Sharpe.
The turnout Monday was light, but you wouldn’t know it from the squeals coming from the narrow classroom.
“I’ll come back if I don’t have anything else to do,” said Jude Depp, a fourth-grader at Lycé e Franç ais.
That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but Jude’s mother, Darlene Mipro, said it’s a step in the right direction.
“He’s a big reader, but math is not an area he really loves. I heard this is a program that gets kids engaged without traditional workbook pages. So I’m hoping this can help him begin to enjoy math as much as he enjoys reading,” Mipro said.
On Monday, Jude joined a handful of students he’d never met to make shape patterns on the floor, in the dark, using glow sticks. First it was squares — which the kids took turns hopscotching through — then triangles, then a hexagon honeycomb. Then the Styrofoam balls came out, and it was time to build pyramids using small glow-stick connectors.
Crazy 8s turned out to more than a learning experience — it was a social opportunity. Kids bonded over ignoring the instruction to make pyramids, instead opting for Styrofoam snowmen or simply grinding the balls to dust, and a spontaneous singalong to the “Magic 101-point-nine” jingle.
Although the program is targeted at third- to fifth-graders, Kohl said advanced students in lower grades are welcome to attend the free program. Henry Ordeneaux, a first-grader from Bricolage Academy, was able to keep pace, proudly announcing to the others, “I made a trapezoid!”
Parents looking for more opportunities to engage their children in unorthodox math can check out a number of Bedtime Math books available at New Orleans Public Library branches or take advantage of nightly math challenges online at bedtimemath.org. Watch neworleanspubliclibrary.org for dates and times of the next Crazy 8s session.