Yelm students traverse town to learn real-life math skills

Participants are eligible to win a Kindle Fire


Eight Yelm businesses are teaching students of all ages the importance of math in the real world as part of the Math For Life challenge. Yelm Community Schools is one of eight districts in Thurston County participating in the program, which takes place from now until Sunday, April 7.

YCS, Twinstar Credit Union, Olympia Federal Savings, First Finishers LLC, Graham Auto Repair, America’s Credit Union, The Showroom Interior Solutions and OBEE Credit Union are the Yelm businesses that students can visit to learn about how they use math.

When students arrive at a business, they will let the employee(s) know what level of math they do based on their grade, and the employee(s) will give them a math problem to solve. Students must visit at least five of the local businesses and have them sign off on their forms in order to be eligible to win prizes, including a grand prize of a Kindle Fire.

Jordan Coleman, YCS financial services manager, gave students math problems based on money, which is what his experience and daily work involves, when they come into the YCS district office. He enjoys helping students realize how math works in the real world.

“Your teachers will tell you all day long, ‘Hey, pay attention because you might need this someday.’ The whole impetus of the program is to have the kids go into people’s real-world jobs and see that, yes, they do do math,” he said. “I try to give them money problems because it isn’t always touched on in schools.”

Coleman acknowledged that the last thing some students may want to do during their spring break is work on math problems, but he said that it is “indescribably cool” that some younger students are genuinely interested in the challenge.

“It’s a testament to our community. The kids are excited to show up and learn math, and it shows that we have a lot of involved parents in our district who want to give kids those opportunities,” he said. “It starts at home. A kid can want to do math all he wants, but unless mom or dad are gonna give him those opportunities, he may never get to do that.”

Like many school districts, YCS has had struggles with state testing scores in mathematics. Coleman said a program like Math For Life can incentivize students to want to improve in math, thus boosting their test scores.

“Getting excited about math is going to translate directly to the classroom because once kids realize the importance of math and see how it’s used in the world, they’ll maybe take it more seriously,” he said. “That would be a hope I have for them. I think it’s cool anytime we can get kids excited about things that are educational, especially in today’s world of video games and social media and a lot of instant gratification. It’s cool when we see kids having fun doing things to better themselves.”

To learn more about the Math For Life challenge, visit