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.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Have a Great Idea on How to Teach Math? These Teachers Do!

by Erica Voolich

     Many teachers have great ideas on how to make their classrooms a better place for their students to learn math.  The teachers’ ideas frequently outrun the budget schools have for supplies and their own ability to subsidize their classroom.  The Somerville Mathematics Fund tries to fill this need through the generosity of their donors.  

    This year has been an unusual year.  The Somerville Public School buildings have been closed since last March.  Teachers who won Somerville Math Fund grants last year were just receiving or ordering their materials when everything changed because of the pandemic.  We allowed the teachers to adjust their orders from classroom materials to materials for home remote learning.  We still don’t have an actual date for the Somerville students and teachers to be physically back in their classrooms.  It was hard year for teachers to plan, as a result we had a large drop off of applications.  

    This year we have five teacher winners, four have hopes of returning to the actual classroom sometime in the near future.  Each teacher’s grant has a generous sponsor who is making their teacher’s work easier.  Our congratulations to each of the winners and our thanks to each of the sponsors for their generous support:

• Kelly Dickson, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (6th - 8th, Autism Teacher), Math Games & Manipulatives, sponsored by Winter Hill Bank

• Meredith Rothstein, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (5th - 8th, Autism Teacher), Manipulatives to develop Basic Skills sponsored by Lali and Jay Haines.

• Roxane Scrima, John F Kennedy School, (K), Math Manipulatives for home packets for each family, sponsored by East Cambridge Savings Bank.

• Amanda Singleton, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (4th-5th, Autism Teacher), Individualized learning math manipulatives, sponsored by Tufts University.

• Meaghan Tubridy, Albert Argenziano School, (3rd - 4th, Special Education), Individualized packets math materials for home and school sponsored by William Kuhlman.

    The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Over twenty-one years, the Somerville Math Fund has awarded $133,418 in teacher grants supporting three hundred forty teachers’ projects in the city of Somerville along with emergency grants to East Somerville teachers after the devastating school fire.

    In early April, the fund will be seeking applications from students who reside in Somerville for college mathematics scholarships.  Over twenty-one years, the Somerville Math Fund has awarded a total of $445,000 in four-year mathematics scholarships to ninety-nine students.  Links to the scholarship application form is available at  www.somervillemathematicsfund.org   

    For more information, to volunteer or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Erica Voolich (617-666-0666 or mathfund@gmail.com).

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Scrapheap Move Over, here comes Game Jam!

 by Erica Dakin Voolich

Previous years in October I’d be telling you about teams each of three students arriving at the gym at Tufts University for an engineering challenge on a Sunday afternoon.  Well, guess what happened with Scrapheap in the pandemic?  No such event was possible.  But, the Somerville Math Fund’s Board would not be deterred, they decided they would hold a Game Jam instead in December, with students each working in teams of three each from their own home.

Seven teams signed up for the Somerville Math Fund Game Jam.  They got “their marching orders” in a zoom meeting on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday afternoon picked up their supplies in a pizza box at the high school.  

Students had from Tuesday night at 6:30 PM until Sunday at 6:30 PM to work on and upload their games.  They needed to design a board or card game that could be played by 3 or more players, assuming each the players could possibly at different locations.  The theme of the game was Space — any interpretation of that theme was OK.  All the teams of three were creating at home, not together in person — not like the pre-COVID days of Scrapheap Showdown, with a large pile of junk, our scrapheap in the middle of a Tufts U gym floor.  Each player was given a pizza box full of papers with different board designs, rules, many different sided dice, playing cards and some random unrelated items that they needed to figure out how to use at least one of them in the game.  These were used in interesting ways.  In one game the stress ball became the sun on the game board of the planets, in another there was an animal building challenge with another random object as the board game progressed. 

The Board was impressed by the creativity of the games the students came up with.  Lots of detail and thought went in to the rules and design.  Creative choice of how to use the required theme of “space.” Some planetary or astroid travel or building for survival or defense, some different non-Euclidean geometric spaces, even some aliens to escape.  Some games were for younger students some assumed high school math.

After the games were submitted and uploaded to the Somerville Math Fund Classroom, the Board members needed to play the games and the teams of contestants were each given two games to play and evaluate with the same rubric the Board was using.  The rubric was on a scale of 16 (up to 4 points in each of 4 categories) and each game was judged by students as well as Board members and the final score was the average of the students’ scores with the average of the Board members’ scores.

The first place team was “No Name Given” (Marie Lessard-Brandt, Isra Khan, Rio Hunter Black) with their game “Belt Hop,” 13.2 points.  The second place team was “Senioritis” (Justin Millette, Henry Ayanna, Owen Chiu) with their game “Cosmic Civilization,” 13 points.

The third place team was “Buddies” ( Brayden Goldstein-Gelb, AJ Feldman, Kevin Wen), with their game “Hold Your Horses,” 12.3 points.  The fourth place team was “We Don’t Know” (Nikhilesh Rattan, Samuel Diener, Chakshu Patel), with their game of  “The Final Space Race,” 11.8 points.

The teams chose their prizes in the order they finished.  The prizes donated were three passes donated by the New England Aquarium good through 2021, three $100 Target gift card, three $25 Apple gift cards and three $25  Amazon gift cards.

Designers and refiners of the challenge were members of the Somerville Math Fund Board: Sanford Bogage, Chase Duclos-Orsello, Adam Foster, Monica Fernandes, Richard Graf, Jay Landers, Kelly O’Connell, Erica Voolich, Susan Weiss with design suggestions and distribution help from Patricia Murphy-Sheehy at Somerville High, Head of Math Department.  The math teachers at Somerville High School, recruited student teams.  

Thanks to our sponsors, this activity was both a fund raiser for scholarships, provided prizes for the students and allowed the students to participate without paying any registration fee.  Our wonderful sponsors were Commercial Cleaning Co/Bickoff Family, Jasper J. Lawson, PhD. and Associates, Midé Technology Corporation, Tufts University, Winter Hill Bank, and two anonymous donors.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville.  On January 7th, we will be looking for teacher grant applications; and in April, we will be looking for scholarship applications.   For more information or to volunteer or to make a donation, call 617-666-0666, e-mail mathfund@gmail.com, or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.