Originally Published: January 14, 2004 7 a.m.
Although the class had not yet been exposed to equations, Taylor Moore's hand went up. "It has a plus, a minus and an equals sign," the student answered excitedly.
Thus began Math Man's introduction to the world of shapes and putting values to them.
Every month of the school year, Schmitt teaches math to a grade level in every district school. To date, he's taught his way through the fifth and fourth grades and is now visiting district third-grade classrooms. His schedule for the rest of the 2003-04 year includes second grades in February, first in March and kindergarten in April.
"The farther you get up the administrative ladder, the farther it takes you from the students," Schmitt said of his reason for his Math Man persona. "This reconnects me with the classroom and the kids. It also gives me R&R from the office; and the kids re-energize me."
Each student in Schmitt's class receives a "Mathlete" certificate and is left with a math challenge to solve, but the superintendent's involvement doesn't stop there. Schmitt posts all student responses, including letters and notes in his district office.
In addition, Math Man treats the students, from all schools who answer the challenge correctly, to lunch at a restaurant of their democratic choice.
"It's fun," Schmitt said of the lunches, which thus far included as many as 15 students. "It brings children from different schools and different social-economic backgrounds together for socialization and to celebrate the students."
The fifth-graders chose lunch at Zekes and the fourth-grade winners selected Pizza Hut, Schmitt said.
"We sit around and just talk," he said. "It's really neat to observe the interaction. They have good appetites and are wonderfully behaved. It's cute because kids will tell you anything."
Schmitt, who identifies himself as a hands-on type of guy, credits Debi Schmidt from Bradshaw Mountain High School and Wendy Diskin from Bradshaw Middle School for preparing the math challenge questions and lessons.
"It's all about getting students excited about math and to have fun with math," Schmitt said. "And, I want to be involved in the learning process of children; it shouldn't make any difference what position we hold in a school system."
Vitya Cuthre, 9, said he understood the concepts Math Man taught.
"This is fun. I'm going to like equations," he said.
Vitya's teacher also approved of the math instruction the superintendent presented.
"This is such a unique situation," Sula said. "In 15 years of teaching, I've never seen a superintendent take such an interest in the students and their pro-gress."
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