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What math means to them

Minneota Elementary kindergarten class named a finalist in nationwide contest

November 15, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MINNEOTA - On Thursday, the kindergarten students at Minneota Public School were notified that they have a 1-in-12 chance of having their picture featured nationally on the covers of the McGraw-Hill My Math student materials thanks being named a finalist in the "What Math Means to Me" art contest.

But they may need the help of their community because, combined with the scores of a panel of celebrity judges, the votes from the general public help determine the winner.

"We didn't want to hype it up for the kids if they didn't get to be a finalist," said kindergarten teacher Lisa Hart. "They think we're one of the best ones, so they're really excited. If we'd win in the kindergarten category, our picture would be published on the covers. It would be really neat. Their little hands are frozen in time."

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With the assistance of their teacher Lisa Hart, Minneota Public School kindergartners displayed their version of “What Math Means to Me.”

In addition to being featured on the covers of the math materials and getting displayed in the new Museum of Math in New York City (N.Y.), classrooms get $14,500 worth of class prizes, which include Crayola art supplies, Texas Instrument calculators, a Intel Learning Series computer, SK Science Kit math manipulative software and a number of other educational subscriptions, access and software.

Hart said the prizes would be great, but she's just excited that her class could actually win the contest. There were 174 entries in the kindergarten category. Five other categories - grades 1-5 - are judges separately.

"It's their cool creation," she said. "It's kind of exciting, especially for a small town in southwest Minnesota, that we could actually be put on nationwide published curriculum."

After some encouraging from Alyssa Beich, a student teacher in the classroom, Hart decided to submit an entry to the national contest. Original creations had to be a drawing, painting, sculpture, LEGO creation, computer graphic, collage or photograph.

"I originally got an e-mail from the high school math teacher and thought about my own daughter doing something," Hart said. "I didn't think about submitting the whole kindergarten class. But my student teacher said we should submit something."

After some thought, Hart came to the conclusion that together, they could pull it off. So, she headed to her math center in the classroom and let her imagination go wild.

"I have this jar full of math manipulatives, like dominoes, dice and other things that we use for math all year long," Hart said. "We started pulling things out of the jar, arranging the kids on the floor and putting those things in their hands."

The students are proud of the finished product, Hart said, and still remember what math object they were holding. But it wasn't easy to capture the shot.

"We had 15 kindergartners and they were all laying on their tummies and reaching out," Hart said. "I'm standing on a chair trying to center the shot and saying 'don't close your hand' or 'don't wiggle around.' They were excited."

Along with the photo, a 75-word description of the contest topic - "What Math Means to Me" - needed to be submitted.

"We pulled each kid aside and asked them individually," Hart said. "We took all their responses and combined them into a 75-word essay. It's what they said. It's exciting for them and for the school."

Students added comments about patterns, specific shapes, counting and sorting money, measuring, sizes, counting numbers, adding and subtracting. The essay also stressed that math is everywhere and that children learned all of what they said with their hands.

"I was super excited on the phone Thursday when I got the call that we had been chosen as a finalist," Hart said. "Then we had to get all the parent consent forms signed that day. There was a lot of excitement that day."

Today is the second day that the general public can go online to vote for their favorite entry. Voting continues through Sunday, Nov. 27. Overall winners will be announced after Dec. 5.

"It's hard to know what their (contest officials) vision is, but it's exciting even if we don't win," Hart said. "There are some good ones. But ours is very eye-catching."

The website to view entries and vote is:



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