George Fox elementary education majors create an interactive math event for the students and families of Nellie Muir Elementary School

On a crisp October evening, George Fox’s elementary education majors arrived at Nellie Muir Elementary School in Woodburn, Oregon, to prepare for Family Math Night. Once a semester, these aspiring elementary teachers work together to create several engaging math activities for local K-5 students. Children and their families eat dinner together before roaming from classroom to classroom and participating in different challenges that push them to see math in new ways.  

“Family Math Night introduces Jaden to different kinds of activities involving math and the different kinds of math in our world,” says Jessica, mom to 5-year-old Jaden, who just began kindergarten at Nellie Muir this fall. “It goes beyond the basics.”

A happy student working on math

In total, about 25 students came out with their families to practice math. They participated in a wide range of fall-themed activities, from counting pumpkins and measuring Halloween items to identifying and drawing a variety of geometric shapes that they observed in the real world.

“We came to Family Math Night tonight to be more involved,” says Kiana, mom to 5-year-old Xavier. “Xavier just started kindergarten, and he needs a little more practice with math, so this event has been great to do with him.”

For every completed activity, the children received high fives and candy from the enthusiastic student teachers. 

“It’s rewarding not only to help these kids learn math, but also to see the look on their faces when they get it,” says Delaney Moritz, a first-year elementary education major who participated in the event. 

Family Math Night helps foster learning among Nellie Muir’s elementary students, but it also contributes to the education of George Fox’s elementary education majors. 

A teacher pointing something out to a student

“This event is helping my own education by letting me experience what it’s like to work with kids without a script, and what those real-life interactions look like,” says Abbie Goodwin, another first-year elementary education major.

This is the second year George Fox has partnered with Nellie Muir to run the event, but it won't be the last. Nicole Enzinger, associate professor of education, is committed to consistently bringing her MATH 211 students into the community, so they can practice their teaching skills as they volunteer their time and knowledge. Oscar Belanger, Nellie Muir’s principal, is passionate about math even though he didn’t excel at the subject growing up. 

“I was a math teacher for four years before I was a principal,” he says. “I loved math, and I still love math; but I was horrible at math as a student. I couldn’t do any simple equations. It wasn’t until I got to high school that one of my teachers explained math to me in a different way. And I was like ‘Oh wow, I get it now.’”

A teacher pointing to something on a paper

Belanger knows firsthand how valuable non-traditional teaching methods can be for students who don't thrive in traditional classroom settings. He also has come to realize how important and life-altering a solid understanding of math can be. 

“It was a new world for me that I had never been able to access,” Belanger says. “That’s why I love this event and these young teachers. They have so many different ideas on how to teach the same concepts.”

Belanger plans to continue to partner with the George Fox Elementary Education program for the foreseeable future. The next Family Math night is already scheduled for next April.

“Family Math Night provides a different way to see math,” he says. “I want to bring more of that project-based learning into the school so our students can have more activities like this. I want them to have the opportunity to do something different.”

Share this post: