When schools and libraries reopen in Nebraska later this year, Schuyler Central High School will have a few more things to help aspiring math students make the grade.
SCHS was one of the recipients of the inaugural Mathical Book Prize Collection Development Award, joining 24 other libraries across the nation in receiving this honor.
The award is presented to education facilities through a grant process in which the school must show a plan for using the books and how they would benefit from the program. The Mathical Book Prize is an award given to books that allow students from ages 2-18 to recognize math in anything from an equation to the simplest problem.
Mandy Peterson, a media specialist and librarian at SCHS, wrote the grant for the school. She said she's excited about the possibility of getting to teach students from a variety of grades about the joys of numbers and mathematical properties. She’s not a math wiz, but she understands what needs to be done to help cultivate student success.
“It’s a really big deal that we were chosen,” Peterson said. “The fact that it’s the award’s first year, I feel like is really distinguished for Schuyler.”
The awards are given to schools receiving Title I funds, which SCHS receives due to its status as a school with a high percentage of low-income families. With that in mind, Peterson said she believes that the program is something that can make an impact in every corner of the district, even those who aren’t going to the high school yet.
“I really wanted something that could bring the community and the school districts together,” Peterson said. “As I was writing this grant, we had to pick out specific titles from this book prize list of award winners and say how we would use those. I chose books all the way from that preschool level to young adult books that you would see teenagers walking around with. I wanted things that our students could check out and take home and read by themselves or with younger siblings.”
The books chosen were also bilingual, an important aspect in a school district that has a large constituency of Hispanic students.
“A few of them are available in Spanish as well as English,” Peterson said. “We are trying to bridge the gaps of age and ability level, as well as language acquisition.”
Staci Shonka, a math teacher at SCHS, assisted Peterson with the grant. She said that having the skills to see math, read it and interpret it in real-life situations was important if one had the passion and desire to go into a field requiring a depth of knowledge in the subject.
“You’re going to have to use your reading skills in math, either directly or indirectly,” Shonka said. “Some people don’t see it that way, but when you put it into real-world application in the job atmosphere, you have to be able to read different types of problems (and) be able to set things up. Having reading skills as well as math skills is important.”
It can also help students develop a passion for math and seeing what math can bring to the table. Shonka thinks that having another perspective is important, particularly for those who may not like the subject, but could enjoy a good book about numbers.
“It’ll allow students to develop their reading skills as well as their math skills,” Shonka said. “If their reading skills aren’t real high, they can get some of the lower books and practice, as well as learning some things about math.”
Peterson expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s part of a normalization of seeing math used in everything,” Peterson said. “We don’t think about all of the math around us, so it’s harder to grasp, it’s harder to think it’s important to us. This grant will enable us to embed that math lifestyle with our students and I’m hoping that is what happens. The more we can integrate school subjects into students’ lives, they can see the importance, they can work harder at them (and) they’ll learn more because they see how it applies to their lives.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at email@example.com.
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