Getting crazy with math

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 1, 2017

 Justin Carpenter, 5, and Luke Anderson, 8, of St. Clair Shores, measure squares of toilet paper Jan. 25 at the St. Clair Shores Public Library as part of the Crazy 8s Bedtime Math Club.

Justin Carpenter, 5, and Luke Anderson, 8, of St. Clair Shores, measure squares of toilet paper Jan. 25 at the St. Clair Shores Public Library as part of the Crazy 8s Bedtime Math Club.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Far from the hushed atmosphere of a typical library, a room in the youth services department of the St. Clair Shores Public Library exploded with laughter and excitement on a recent Wednesday evening, all because of math.

The Crazy 8s Club, funded by the Bedtime Math Foundation, is meeting weekly at the library Wednesday evenings in January and February for children in kindergarten through second grade, with plans for another eight-week session of Crazy 8s for children in grades 3-5 set to begin in March.

On Jan. 25, the children were deeply embroiled in the Toilet Paper Olympics, which had them measuring a square of toilet paper, using that information to measure how tall they are, and then participating in Olympic-style games like a long jump measured by toilet paper, a shot put throw of a roll of toilet paper, and then a toilet paper relay race where teams competed to see who could unroll their roll first.

Tracy David, of St. Clair Shores, signed up her 7-year-old daughter, Micah, because math is her least-favorite subject in school.

“I thought this would make it more fun,” David said, adding that it seems to be working. “She’s having fun with this.”

According to its website, Crazy 8s is “a collection of novel, high-octane math activities that will appeal to a wide range of kids, not just the future math-contest types.”

“The goal of Crazy 8s is to show that math is fun and recreational, not compulsory, in order to change our culture and get kids to think of math as play.”

Jennifer Lysakowsky, of St. Clair Shores, heard about the club from a friend and thought her “mathematically inclined” 5-year-old son, Nikolai, would enjoy it.

She was right.

“He’s just been loving it,” she said, explaining that in the first week the children used glow sticks to make geometric shapes and have been doing other fun activities each week since then. 

She appreciates the fun activities provided by the St. Clair Shores Public Library to keep her son engaged.

“We see stuff going on here all the time. This is a really great library,” she said.

Along with the Toilet Paper Olympics, Crazy 8s has included a week of creating shapes with glow sticks (and then seeing the results in the dark), creating musical instruments with straws, and talking about time with the creation of a human clock. The next week’s class was set to be about spy training and decoding, with the children learning how to code their phone number.

Dale Humeston, of Grosse Pointe Woods, said the group has really captured her grandsons’ attention, and youth librarian Liz Drewek said engagement and fun are the point.

Bedtime Math sent the library almost all of the supplies for free, including stopwatches, measuring tapes and more, as well as the lesson plans. The group is meant to be a fun way to reinforce math concepts, not a study group or tutoring session, she said.

“We thought it would be a fun way to offer something we don’t normally do,” she said. “It is not meant to be a math class. You’re not sitting down with a worksheet.”

The next session, for older children, will include the same themes but with more difficult concepts and math to keep them engaged. 

Pre-registration is required for the free group by calling the library at (586) 771-9020, or stopping by the library, as the group is limited to 16 children. The group meets 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, and the K-2 group runs through Feb. 22. Registration begins Feb. 15 for the grades 3-5 group, and that group will meet weekly March 1-April 19.

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