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Sat, July 04, 2020

UTSA SEE Math program creates math superheroes

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Last month, superheroes were seen “flying” around the UTSA Downtown Campus showing off their super powers. But these weren’t just any ordinary super powers; they were special math superpowers that were developed through the Support and Enrichment Experiences in Math (SEE Math) program, a low-cost math tutoring program offered through the College of Education and Human Development.

“The superhero/power assignment had our students dig deep into what they said they were not good at in the beginning of the semester,” said Alyssa Martinez, interdisciplinary studies student and pre-service teacher. “Some students came in with attitudes on both sides of the spectrum, ranging from ‘I love math’ to ‘I hate it because I am not good at it.’ Our main focus with working with these students was to get them to realize that they are not only good at math, but that they are all super heroes as well.”

With the help of their pre-service teacher, each elementary student participating in SEE Math was tasked with choosing their math superpower, or a math skill or area that they had shown improvement in. From there, the students designed their own wearable super hero costumes that showcased their chosen superpower.

“Through the backstory of their hero, the students would explain how their power came to be. This would provide the student with the opportunity to share their knowledge on how the math superpower is used,” said Martina McGhee, doctoral candidate, SEE Math collaborator, and creator of the assignment.

These math superpowers included fractions, addition, subtraction, and multiplication, transforming the students into heroes such as “Multi-Flash” and “Perimeter and Area Man.”

“We service children of varied backgrounds as well as diverse academic levels,” said Grace Treviño, SEE Math Coach. “I truly feel this activity was beneficial beyond what was originally intended. The children not only identified their math strengths, or their superpowers, but in doing so, they experienced wonderful things such as newfound or improved self-confidence and the ability to express and share their strengths with others.”

The superhero assignment was just one of several done this semester to get students in the SEE Math program excited about math.

“One of my student’s favorite assignments that I made for her was the week of ‘Community Walk,” said Martinez. “I was assigned to find a place that was within her community to get her to see math where it is not typically found. I put together an activity based from the local treat spot “Steel City Pops.” In this activity, we found math in probability of combinations within the different flavors of pops and made our own math problems together.”

The assignment, and Martinez’s subsequent social media post, garnered the attention of the Steel City Pops Twitter account.

“The Community Walk is a wonderful way to expose our pre-service teachers to the reality of the children they work with and the communities in which they reside, giving them a better understanding of their children,” said Treviño. “The experiences and learning that took place from this activity for both the children and the pre-service teachers were endless.”

In addition to providing math tutoring and support for local elementary students, SEE Math also provides pre-service teachers in the college with hands-on experiences working with students and creating lessons.

“My favorite part of SEE Math was being able to work one on one with a student and being able to individualize activities to them,” said Martinez. “In a typical classroom, we as teachers are not always able to make lesson content culturally relevant to each and every student. SEE Math gave me the opportunity to not only individualized content but to show the impact that can be made, even if it is for a short period of time.”

SEE Math was established in the fall of 2017 and has served 318 elementary students and helped prepare 348 pre-service teachers. The program concluded for the semester in early April with students, and pre-service teachers, ready to share their math knowledge and superpowers with the world.

“We hoped to send our students off with a sense of empowerment,” said Martinez. “Hopefully now they are using their math concept as their superhero power.”

Photos courtesy of Alyssa Martinez


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