Club aims to make math fun
Technology Support Specialist John Mertes has created an after school math club at Rhodes Elementary School. | Maryann Pisano~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 19, 2012 2:06PM
RIVER GROVE — Students rarely mention “math” and “fun” in the same sentence, but a Rhodes Elementary School club is trying to make the subject more enjoyable.
Technology Support Specialist John Mertes has created a “fun” after school math club. Sixteen to 20 students take part in the club, depending on what other activities they might otherwise have. The students are in fifth to eighth grade, and the club meets every Wednesday after school until 3:30 p.m.
Mertes mostly works with Rhodes’ computers and technology, and created the math club because he missed teaching math. Mertes taught math in college.
“I wanted to do math, and I love math,” he said. “I needed some way to get out there and do it, so I did it. It’s really taken off.”
Mertes likes that the club is a no pressure, no homework type of class.
“It’s just about fun,” Mertes said. “Hopefully, it will be a positive experience.”
Each week, students are taught a new math topic, including subjects in algebra and geometry. Mertes hopes to teach some beginning calculus and trigonometry.
Topics the club has already covered include solving parabola equations, number theory, geometry, times tables, equations and perimeters. Most of the skills taught are at a high school level, such as factoring binomials and trinomials.
Although students are learning high school material, Mertes said the work is not extremely difficult. He usually chooses topics as they come to him. And unlike a regular class, he does not build off of what was taught previously. This way, new students can always join.
“I want them to realize what they’re learning in school now is very important,” Mertes said. “The basics they learn now will help them become successful later in high school and college. I want them to like to do math problems and to not be scared of it.”
Amanda Hernandez’s son is involved in the club.
“I think it’s great that Rhodes has something academic to do after school,” Hernandez said. “Mr. Mertes is really making math fun.”
Hernandez’s son, fifth grader Teddy Hernandez, loves attending the club each Wednesday.
“Mr. Mertes is teaching me topics that I didn’t know,” he said. “I have memorized everything he has taught me. I love math.”
Mertes has worked at Rhodes School for 24 years, teaching math in the beginning. As the years passed, his job evolved to the technology side. He hopes to continue the math club and have it grow.
“I just hope this builds,” he said. “It’s not like a regular class and it keeps expanding.”