Innovative math class seeks funding

Donor’s Choose initiative will help create interactivity, responsibility in classroom

How do you make math fun and interesting for a sixth grader?

St. Louis College Prep’s Heather Ehlmann has a method that has proven effective over the past two years, but she needs help continuing that success with her students this year.

Scholars in Mrs. Ehlmann’s class don’t use scrap paper to work on their math equations – instead, they write directly on their desks, transforming a traditionally sacred space into an interactive learning environment.

“It cuts down on scrap paper, which can cause a mess and is a big waste, and the kids absolutely love it,” said Ehlmann, explaining that her students use dry-erase markers on the desks. “It is just fun to write on your desk. It also helps with partner work because now the scholars are not just sharing a piece of paper – they are sharing a whole desk or two whole desks together. It makes it super easy for me and for them.”

Ehlmann said the desk-writing initiative also helps her scholars develop a greater sense of responsibility, something that St. Louis College Prep really focuses on with all of its scholars.

“The students are responsible for cleaning their own desks at the end of class and having it presentable for the next scholars that are coming in,” said Ehlmann. “It is a responsibility they take a lot of pride in.”

Her students also learn responsibility through managing supply bins that are used by pairs of scholars in each class.

“The bins are filled with basic supplies that the scholars do not normally bring to school,” explained Ehlmann. “Things like rulers, calculators, the dry-erase markers and colored pencils. I want them to have all the supplies they would ever need for any math project or activity so they can access them very quickly and focus on learning. My goal is to get scholars into an environment where they are excited and anxious to learn using the materials without any distractions.”

She said her scholars check the bins every day to make sure they are properly stocked.

“They know that if they lose something, then another scholar will be affected,” said Ehlmann. “Remember how frustrating and distracting it was in school when you had to work with broken supplies; or even worse had to share! What if that problem no longer existed? Would it help you to stay more focused to the task at hand if you didn't have to wait for supplies or deal with broken supplies?

Ehlmann said all of the supplies for the bins were provided through a Donor’s Choose campaign last year, noting that most of the supplies needed to be replaced or restocked for this school year.

She has started a new Donor’s Choose campaign, called Supplies for Superstars, for this school year, seeking a total of  $415.19 to purchase pencils, pens, markers, erasers, Post-It notes, clipboards and calculators for her class.

She said funding the supplies last year was easy, thanks to a generous donation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but noted that this year she needs support from more individual donors to get the project funded by its November deadline.

Donor’s Choose is an online fundraising platform that focuses on connecting patrons with teachers in need of classroom funding. Ehlmann said the website handles everything, from collecting donations to purchasing and shipping the supplies.

“I never see the money, I never see the shipping information,” she said. “If the project is funded then they buy the supplies and send them to me.

“I can't even begin to describe the impact that the supplies have had on my scholars in the classroom,” she added. “They have learned so much responsibility from having to share with their tables and with the other sixth grade class. The supply bins are used just about everyday.”

To help fund Ehlmann’s classroom please visit Donor’s Choose at http://goo.gl/365kq0.