Every parent hopes their child will learn things in school that will be practical for them in life. Many times you hear parents say "Math – my child won't use it, so why should they learn it?"
Stacey Ryan hoped to keep her sixth-grade math students at Andover Middle School from believing that. Her desire was to teach them practical applications of math in their lives, both now and in the future.
"We talked about how it's acceptable to say 'I can't do math,' but if someone said 'I can't read' that's more shocking," Ryan said. "So the kids had a good discussion about that and how that really doesn't make sense, and how they all thought you actually do need math."
Ryan and her students created a project to try to change the public's view so that it would no longer be acceptable to say, "I can't do math." They decided to design a billboard to convey their message.
Before starting this project, the classes participated in a Skype video chat with Luke Luttrell, chief technology officer at NextLED, who gave them suggestions in how to create an effective billboard. He challenged them to work in groups of four and come up with a billboard design for either a math public service announcement or a promo for AMS.
At the end of their Skype, Luttrell told the students he would come to their classes when they were finished to hear their presentations. He said he would pick the best design from each class to display for a week on a Wichita billboard, based upon the following criteria: A simple but effective message that people would think about after seeing it, art and layout, and the students' presentations skills.
Luttrell hoped the students would learn how important it is to be able to present and communicate your idea; that math does have use, even if it's in graphic design; and that learning is an ongoing thing in that you have plenty of time to continue to improve you skills, and it never stops.
Students worked on this project for three days during class. On the fourth day, they worked with community volunteers and professionals who provided feedback about the project and expertise to help guide the students in editing their work.
"One of the goals for this project was to help students see a real-world connection to what they are learning in school; to see the relevance of the math topics students were learning," Ryan said. "The volunteers that worked with the students each had experience in either graphic design or professional presentations."
According to Ryan, working with these professionals helped motivate the students to create the best possible product. The students edited their projects using some of the feedback they received.
Page 2 of 2 - They presented their finished projects Oct 23 to Luttrell, who picked six designs – two classes had two winners – to display.
"I think the more this generation can be involved in personal communication and presentation, the better," he said. "With all the social media and outlets they have to hide behind a computer or phone, it's important to be able to present and talk and communicate their ideas."
The six winning designs went on display Oct. 26 on three digital billboards in Wichita. The billboards are located at 8000 E. Kellogg, in the Super 8/Wichita Inn East parking lot on the north side of Kellogg; at K-15 and 47th South; and at I-235 and South West.
The ads will run until Nov. 2 and rotate on each billboard. Each ad will be displayed for a minute, which means it will take six minutes to see all six ads.
"It all came from her (Ryan's) Skype initiative to bring in outside people to class and get real world examples of where math is used and how it's used," Luttrell said of the project. "I just of threw in some of my resources and expertise and helped her develop a cool project."
"He (Luttrell) says that we came up with the idea. We had the idea of doing a billboard, that was about it," said Alexa Dailey, who had two classes working with two of Ryan's on the project. "His idea was to actually make it more relevant to what kids were used to doing."
In addition to understanding that what they learn in school is relevant, Ryan thought the students enjoyed hearing from all the professionals who came into their classes. She also really appreciated Luttrell's contribution to the class project.
"The coolest factor, really, was his willingness to support public education and his willingness to help out our kids," she said. "That's the coolest thing for our students … they got to apply the math in a real-world setting."