Welcome to Somerville Mathematics

Welcome to Somerville Mathematics, a blog devoted to exciting mathematical things happening in Somerville MA. I am the founder of The Somerville Mathematics Fund, www.Somervillemathematicsfund.org
The Math Fund was chartered to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville. I hope you will check out my TEDxSomerville talk on the Somerville Math Fund,
I find that there are many other interesting things happening mathematically in Somerville and I hope on this blog to have others share what they are doing. So please contact me at mathfund@gmail.com if you would like to contribute an article.

Friday, November 20, 2009


By Lisa Mitrano

(Kindergarten teacher at the Argenziano School)

In the Somerville Public Schools, the TERC math curriculum, Investigations, is used. Kindergarten students are introduced to many important ideas and concepts such as counting, measurement, patterning, sorting, etc. In my Math Investigations Club, these skills are explored and reinforced through the reading of books, playing games and using manipulatives.

Every Thursday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:00, parents join their children in our classroom for this club. At our first session on October 22nd, there were 10 children, 7 mothers, 2 fathers, and one grandmother in attendance. After a quick snack, everyone gathered together on the rug as I read Dr. Jean’s math book There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A One about the day’s math focus skill: counting. Following this, parents and children team up and do math activities together.

As I rotated among the groups, I heard many interesting comments from the children who were thrilled to do a learning activity with a family member. I was happy when I heard, “Count with me, Mommy” and “Let’s play this game again” and I was thrilled to hear a child exclaim, “I know what number comes next!” I overheard one lady who did not speak English very well repeat the numbers from one to twenty in English after her granddaughter and then the granddaughter cried out, “Grandma, you did it!”

Young children learn how to count by having many opportunities to count and to see and hear others count. They develop strategies for counting accurately by:

  • Learning the names of the numbers in order;
  • Assigning one number to each object;
  • Counting each object once and only once;
  • Keeping track of what has been counted;
  • Seeing that the last number said represents the total number counted.

Here are the goals of my Math Investigations Club:

  • To expose students to a wide variety of math materials;
  • To integrate literature, games and math;
  • To build and strengthen the child-parent connection;
  • To allow families to play math games that are motivational, educational and fun;
  • To provide parents with a meaningful way to work with their children to strengthen, supplement and master the math curriculum.

What a wonderful experience it is to see this club in action and all the adults who dedicated quality time to spend one-on-one with their child and “play math”.

For more pictures from an afternoon at the math club, click here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Scrapheap Showdown, Marble Mazes meet Rube Goldberg!

Erica Dakin Voolich

On Sunday, October 25, twelve teams of Somerville Students gathered in “The Cage” at Cousens Gym at Tufts to participate in this year’s annual Scrapheap Showdown sponsored by The Somerville Mathematics Fund. This year’s problem involved building a marble maze to get from one corner of a banquet table to the opposite corner of a 2nd table two feet away.

Instead of just building a ramp from table corner to table corner, students had loop-the loops, spirals, cup elevators, triggers... all sorts of interesting Rube-Goldber-like obstacles.

As a member of the Somerville Mathematics Fund board, I was involved in the designing, testing and adjusting of the problem. We got to actually build our own solution, as we do each year, to know that it is possible and to figure out the scoring system. When the kids started working on the problem, their solutions were totally different, unique, creative and exciting.

Take a minute to look at the pictures of each of the teams hard at work on their projects and read all about the A-Mazing event in the Somerville Journal. Prior to the event, the Tufts online newsletter wrote about the upcoming event.

This year’s teams were:

Rubber Duckies

• Paulo Filipe Dourado

• Nelson Moreira

• Matthew Bedell

AMS Alliance

• Matthew Correia

• Sergio Resendes

• Adam Hughes

Freaks in Control

• Sabrina Ozit

• Lola Yu

The Coopers

• Michael Shamshak

• David Cooper

• Kayla Landry

You have to Spend Money to Make Money

• Nat Dempkowski

• Yongkang Yu

• Nathan Long

The Bird is the Word

• Danny Huang

• Nicholas Cruz

•Michael Conte


• Bipul Pyakuryal

• Aakash Sharma

• Avtar Singh

The Devastators

• Mohammad Sheikh

• Timur Addul Talil

• Anandpreet Singh

De Villens

• Deepika Bhargo

• Aaron Nevin

• Tara Costiner

P.M. Norm

• Norman Li

• Pristine Mei

• Michele Mei

The Stern Halloran Man

•Christopher Halloran

• Jacky Man

• Jesse Stern

Asian Avengers V2

• David Huang

• Raymond Li

• Joshua Ren

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Healey Students Report on their Family Math Night

Compiled and submitted by Nathaniel, Jackson, Sophia, Laila, Karlos, Marcela, Nicholas, Kyara, Loden, Shane, Madison, Grace, Sam and Isabel from Room # 106.

As second grade students many of us have gone to Healey School Family Math Night for three years and played a lot of different games. Since 14 out of 21 children in our class went, 2/3 of our class was there! This was the Eighth Annual Family Math Night for Kindergarten through Grade Two. Math Night was on Tuesday, June 2nd this year. It was the best night for a lot of us like Marcela and full of fun! “Family Night rocked!”

After we got our passports, some of us went to Estimation Station where we estimated different containers of healthy food and explained our thinking. Family Math Night had so many games that none of us played them all. We spent time finding our friends so we could play games together. We played with partners like Karlos and Nathaniel, alone and with more than two! We learned new games. Laila enjoyed the pizza and water and had a lot of fun with family and friends.

Table activities were set up in the cafeteria. In Watch Out for the Smile we kept adding numbers from the dice until we rolled a smile. Then we took away the numbers from that turn. In Nim, we had 15 stirrers. Each person could take 1,2 or 3 away but no one wanted to have the last stirrer! Grace played three times. We made some pretty quilt squares to make a paper quilt. We learned that we could make some of the games ourselves with egg cartons like Scramble Shake and Mancala. Loden made and played Mancala on a camping trip this way! In Origami, Kyara's mother showed her how to make a puppy. Some other games were Empty the Bowl, Baseball Go, Roll to Cover, Start and Jump, How Many Am I Hiding, Dot to Dot, Hexagon Moves and Tangrams. The games were fun, but tiring for Sam!

In the gym, seventh and eighth graders helped Mrs. C.B. set up and help with actively pursuing math activities. Nicholas observed that the most people were probably at bowling. Other popular activities were Measure Me, Bean Bag Math and Great Musical Sums (like Musical Chairs except no one was out and when the music stopped, we rolled dice and put the number on a chart).

We went in Ms. Murdock's room to play board games, to use calculators and to build Tall Towers. One time the tower was so big it was taller than Jackson standing on a chair! Here, Isabel taught others how to play yet another version of Mancala.

Madison noted that Family Math Night was a success. We even had high school teenagers helping out including Mr. Michel's daughter and Laila's sister. Shane was very happy to go to Math Night this year even though he will be too old next year. He wants to volunteer when he is older. Sophia sadly reported that this was her first and last time going to Family Math Night because she was going on to Third Grade. As summed up by Karlos, “Family Math Night was a blast!”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring is here and so are More Math Nights!

If you haven’t attended or volunteered at a math night, you’ve missed out on a wonderful intergenerational event. For years, I’ve tried to attend these events when I know about them ahead of time. In March, I was able to get to at least part of the West Somerville Neighborhood School celebration but, unfortunately, not to the East Somerville Community School celebration. Of course, I attended the celebration of Pi described in this blog below in “The Somerville Community Celebrates Pi Day” since I was one of the co-planners of that evening.

However this year, Delia Marshall was able to get to each of these events and has written about them on the Somerville Journal website . The West Somerville Neighborhood School K-2nd family math night, organized by Annette Bassett, was “packed to the gills.” One could hardly move around the cafeteria were kids were intently playing mathematical games with parents and a few grandparents. There was excitement in the air as the children tried to teach their parents how to play. All the activities were mathematically based--everything from using basic counting and computational skills to geometry to strategy. You can read all about it, “Big Numbers at WSNS Night” in the article by Delia Marshall.

The next day, the East Somerville Community School held its celebration of math for 3rd and 4th grade families organized by Linda Wiegenfeld and Laura Bonnell. This well-attended event had a slightly different format. While the students played mathematical games and worked on mathematical challenges, the parents learned about their children’s math --contrasting it to their own experiences and learning how to help their children now. This reminded me of one of the first math grants The Somerville Mathematics Fund awarded, back in 2001 to Mary McClellan for a mathematical resource lending library for middle school parents at the East Somerville Community School--parents wanted, but weren’t always sure, how to help their children in mathematics, today’s math was so different from their own school experiences--a different creative response to a similar problem. Last year I attended the ESCS math event and, if this was anything like that afternoon, it was an experience well-worthwhile for everyone ... high energy excitement about mathematics. Delia Marshall captures the spirit and details of the event in “March Mathness” at ESCS.

At each of these events, many teachers at each school came out and volunteered their own time for an exciting math event outside of the regular school day which gave families a better understanding of what their children were doing mathematically and how they might help, encourage and play with their children.

If you’d like attend a family math night, there are two events still to occur this spring (readers, please let me know about any others). At least one, I know, always welcomes volunteers; so let me know if you are interested in volunteering (voolich@aol.com).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two Teachers who are excited about math win "Teacher of the Year" awards from the Somerville Teachers Association

By Erica Dakin Voolich

Fourth grade teachers Linda Wiegenfeld from the East Somerville Community School at Edgerly and Fran Carino from the Winter Hill Community School were each named Teacher of the Year by the Somerville Teachers Association in March. Fran is a Mathematics Curriculum Leader and each participants in the LEGO Project at Tufts University to introduce LEGOes as a way to teach science to elementary students. Linda is also a teacher winner of Somerville Mathematics Fund teacher grants supporting the mathematics work she is doing at ESCS.

When asked about receiving the award, Linda said
“I was honored to receive the award of Teacher of the Year. It was of special significance to me that the award covered the year of the fire - a very difficult year. I've been teaching for a long time but still haven't lost my passion for education. I love working in Somerville, where there have been so many opportunities to explore new ways to help students. My current projects are working with the special education inclusion committee, participating in a program from Tufts University to use LEGOes in the classroom to teach science, and serving as a Curriculum Team Leader. I occasionally write educational articles for a newspaper called The Epoch Times. I feel very lucky to have a job that suits my personality and where I can make a difference.”

and Fran said:
“I am also very proud of this award. For most of my teaching career I have taught in Somerville. Currently, I teach 4th grade at the WHCS. I am the Math Curriculum Team Leader and the PTA Treasurer. In all three roles I am able to reach out to our parents helping them to be involved in their children's education on a daily basis. As I mentioned at the award ceremony, I grew up in Somerville and my inspiration to teach came from two Somerville teachers, my kindergarten and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. Rita Fitzpatick and Mr. Paul Coakley, respectively. I hope that in my role as teacher I can inspire my students to reach for their dreams and to work hard to fulfill them.”

It is wonderful to have Somerville teachers who are excited about mathematics, winning awards for the work they are doing in our community.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Here's what we did for Pi Day at our school, the West Somerville Neighborhood School

by Annette Bassett

In grades 7,and 8, the students made key chains using gimp, then attached a length of beads color coded for the first 40 digits in Pi.
They are wearing them on their backbacks and jeans.

The 6th grade also made a Pi bead bracelet following a similar color code. They used a larger bead to begin Pi. The sixth grade also did a Pi activity using bagels and recited Pi poetry!

In the 7th and 8th grade math classes the teacher ran a Pi
trivia contest and did math problem solving activities with Pi. The
winners of the Pi trivia contest won a pizza pie. We also listen to
and watched, on the smart board, the music video; "Loose Yourself in
the Digits" by Pi Diddy
. It depicts students at Vancover High School
during their Pi reciting contest. (The kids loved that!)

Then the entire 6th 7th and 8th grade student body had apple pie for dessert with their lunch, which was made by Somerville High School's culinary arts program!

As the CTL-Math, I facilitated the activities with the 6,7, and 8th grade teachers and support staff. A really fun day!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Somerville Mathematics Fund offers scholarships

The Somerville Mathematics Fund, an affiliate of Dollars for Scholars, offers renewable mathematics scholarships for outstanding high school seniors and to college students who lived in Somerville MA while attending high school. The applications should be postmarked by 11 April 2009.
To get an application, go to The Somerville Mathematics Fund web site or e-mail voolich@aol.com.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Somerville Community Celebrates Pi Day

by Erica Dakin Voolich

At various schools around our city this year, Pi was celebrated a “day early” on Friday, March 13. Technically, Pi Day is March 14th (3.14), and to be more precise, March 14th at 1:59:26.

Students at the West Somerville Neighborhood School in 6th, 7th and 8th grade had activities related to Pi in their classes. The students in the Brown School 6th grade and the Kennedy School 6th through 8th made posters and tee-shirts, wrote and practiced skits or songs or raps and researched Pi in advance. Students kindergarten through eighth grade at the Argenziano School at Lincoln Park celebrated during the day. Finally, the day was capped off with middle students from East Somerville Community School at Cummings and from the Brown School joining the middle school students at Kennedy School (pictures) and numerous high school and community volunteers for an activity-packed family mathematics night (details) at the Kennedy School. The generosity of the Table Talk Pie Company made it possible for everyone, students, parents, teachers, volunteers to go home with their own small pie and the winners of activities to take home a full-sized pie. This final event was sponsored by and coplanned with The Somerville Mathematics Fund.

Among the activities at the Kennedy School Family Mathematics Night were
Displaying the posters created.
Wearing the tee shirts created.
Estimating the size of various circular objects (from the size of lids by feel only to the inside of circles on the gym floor to various balls).
Collecting Data on various targets (circle inscribed in square vs square inscribed in a circle) and toothpick drops (Buffon needle experiment).
Estimating the number of various circular things in jars.
Making Pi buttons to wear.
Finding personal dates of birth in Pi.
Taking a quiz on pi facts.
Predicting the distance a wheel would roll.
Drawing freehand a circle the size of a CD.
Graphing the diameter vs the circumference of a variety of circles.
Predicting volume in a cylinder.
Performing the skits and raps written.

Pi is an infinitely long number that lends itself to celebration by a collection of aficionados in many schools. It is one of those numbers, that even though you can’t possibly write out all of its digits, and for centuries they have been difficult to calculate, it’s basic concepts are simple enough to understand that it lends itself to celebrations on March 14 each year. Web sites are devoted to activities related to Pi for teachers to use and share and also to such π paraphernalia such as tee-shirts, cups, pins hats, etc. Scholarly articles and books along with story books have been written on Pi. This year congress passed a resolution supporting Pi Day and our local Congressman Capuano voted “yes” to encourage the celebration of this important mathematical holiday. Last year, even a local pie shop, Petsi Pies, got involved.

If you are interested in celebrating this holiday next year, contact me at voolich@aol.com. I’m sure there will be something mathematical happening.