What I learned at my son's math camp

Each day last week, my 7-year old woke up at 7:30 AM, got dressed, ate breakfast and was ready to go by 8:15. I dusted off his backpack, cleaned out his lunch box and filled up the water bottle that hasn’t seen the light of day since the end of May. We were headed off to school. Sort of.

He was off to math camp.

Over the winter he tested into a program offered by Northwestern University that is geared towards gifted children. Course material is typically one to two grades above the child’s current grade level. There are a variety of courses in language arts, math, technology and science but he wanted math so we chose a class that focused on math and animals.

My primary expectation was to have him in one summer enrichment program that would engage his mind a bit. While gifted children meet and exceed goals during the school year, they are not immune from the “summer slide” – in other words, the educational ground they lose by not being in school for three months.

This program met my expectation of stemming the slide, and so much more. Here are just a few of my observations.

009There were 12 students in his class so it was much smaller than the 22 students who were in his first grade class. This allowed the teacher to have the students’ interests drive and shape the week. Several of the students, my son included, are really into sharks so they spent all day Tuesday on Shark Attack Math. Each student chose a different kind of shark and calculated how many teeth they lose in a year, how long a line of sharks is, how many babies they can give birth to in a lifetime, among other statistics. At the end of the day, as we were leaving my son enthusiastically told me, “I had so much fun today!” At that point we were out of the classroom but I really hope his teacher heard that.

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I loved how low-tech the class was. Sure, coding was down the hall and maybe next summer I will enroll him in one of those courses, but this class focused on multiplication and they learned the old fashioned way, with pencil and paper. Pretty much the only materials they used during the week were pencil, paper, crayons, post-its, and manila envelopes. They did spend part of one morning in the school’s computer lab, but they spent more time looking up statistics in a hard cover version of the Guinness Book of World Records. Note taking is not a lost art. All work was hand written and hand calculated.

Also, I got some much valued feedback from my son’s time in class with other gifted peers. At the beginning of first grade, his teacher figured out pretty quickly he was way above grade level in both reading and math. While the school’s formal program for gifted children starts in 3rd grade, he, along with the other first grade brainiacs, met with the teacher of that program for enrichment twice a week for reading and three times a week for math. All in, it amounted to five hours a week. While some of the work came home, I never received any evaluation or feedback from that teacher. I asked about it at the parent-teacher conference, but it never happened. That is, until this week. Every day, his teacher gave me comments on his progress. It was nice to finally have something and I really appreciated that.

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Of course, there was the free t-shirt.

The end of the week featured an expo and my son gleefully walked me around the classroom. He loved showing off the facts he learned during the week. As an example, he was proud to inform me that cheetahs are not the fastest animals on earth. They are the fastest mammal, but the fastest animal is in fact the peregrine falcon, which can travel up to 242 mph.

As the teacher said at the beginning, the children love to try to stump their parents. It never gets old does it?

Are your kids at camp this summer, day or sleep away? What have you learned? Share with a comment.

If you liked this post, check out this one which includes some of my son’s math work.

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Tags: gifted children, MBA Son

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