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Higher Learning: Creekside elementary students learn from college professor

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The Franklin College professor tells the fourth-grade students at Creekside Elementary School that his college statistics class starts with the same concept theirs does.

John Boardman, a math professor at Franklin College, is spending Wednesdays this year teaching high-ability fourth-grade students at Creekside Elementary School.

The elementary students get to learn from a man who teaches young adults and get a peek at what college may be like.

Boardman gets to sharpen his teaching skills and develop them even more for his college students.

And all this started as a way for the professor to volunteer in his daughter’s class.

Last year, Boardman taught a math class on Tuesdays that his daughter, Jocelyn, was in.

Her fourth-grade teacher, Beth Hoeing, wanted to continue to have him teach this year.

Parent volunteers are common in the classroom. However, in Hoeing’s seven years of teaching, Boardman is the only one who had the expertise and time to actually teach a lesson every week, Hoeing said.

High-ability students get to learn fifth-grade math from a professor. Those students get another way to look at math problems with an expert in math.

“It helps (students) grasp the one (way) it will make sense to them,” Hoeing said. “They see that he teaches adults skills that will put them in their careers.”

Other students get more one-on-one time with their teacher during math class when Boardman is there.

“On Wednesdays, I get to spend an entire hour and 10 minutes with my fourth-grade learners,” she said.

Every Wednesday morning, students are abuzz when they know Boardman is coming to teach, Hoeing said.

She hears whispers of excitement before he comes in. Students line up to get his help with spelling lessons before math starts.

He knows students by name and teases them about always being the first one in line or about how to write more explanation to go with a math problem.

Boardman uses the same math curriculum the students follow daily in their math class.

The hands-on Everyday Math had Boardman teach students card games about angles and geomoetric shapes.

Teaching that curriculum to elementary school students has inspired Boardman to find ways to make his college classes more hands-on, he said.

For example, when he needs data to teach elementary school students a concept, they must find the data themselves.

He used that idea in a college level math class. Before, he would just give data for the students in his college class to use.

“It gives me great ideas to make classes more interesting at Franklin College,” Boardman said. “In college, we think we have to make things nice and neat.”

The college connection is why the partnership is so great, Hoeing said.

Often students will ask Boardman about his students and what college is like. His answers reinforce ideas Hoeing tries to give her students about college. To them, he is the face of higher education, she said.

“When I talk to them about college, they say ‘really, I’m 9,’” Hoeing said. “It is hard for then to look past fourth grade.”

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