published on 08/28/2007
Mathematics Made Easy As (Octo)PI
Communications Manager Tennessee Aquarium & IMAX Theater
Some people would rather come face to face with big, toothy sharks than dive into any kind of math class. But what if there was a way to sneak math skills into a field trip while watching sharks? Sounds fishy, but that’s what educators will be learning to do at an animal math workshop at the Tennessee Aquarium.
So far this year, 65,000 students have received learning experiences delivered by the Aquarium’s education department. These environmental science programs have been developed and aligned using the applicable standards for Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and the National Science Education Content Standards.
And now another resource for teachers is being added by using a trip to the aquarium to help teach mathematics. “With all of the pressure on teachers to improve math scores in the classroom under the No Child Left Behind Act, it is my hope that equipping teachers with tools to make learning math fun and interesting will assist them in their goal to improve math test scores,” says Tim Baker, director of education at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Educators from nearly a dozen zoos and aquariums across the Southeast will come to Chattanooga for this Math in Zoos and Aquariums (MiZA) workshop. Once here, they will explore how math experiences can be used to connect visitors to real-world science and conservation efforts. In one session this will be done by asking the educators to become penguin scientists. By observing the gentoos and macaronis at Penguins’ Rock for example, educators will learn how to engage students with collecting and analyzing data. Later they will spend time plotting and graphing this information and using the data to solve problems.
“I have taught this class to over 300 individuals from 120 zoos, aquariums and nature centers across the country,” said Gabrielle Hebert, director of experiences at the Phoenix Zoo. “And most of them didn’t realize how much math is in their institution. Kids think these programs are fun, and they are learning math skills without even realizing it.”
Baker believes a multitude of fish, turtles, frogs, and things that slither and fly are the keys to helping math grades soar in the Southeast. “My goal is being a resource to teachers,” Baker said. “By hosting this workshop at the Tennessee Aquarium we hope to multiply exponentially the resources available to educators throughout our region.”
This workshop is available free of charge to all of the participants thanks to funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Engaging Visitors with Animal Math is part of the Math in Zoos and Aquariums. (MiZA)