Students Turn To Television For Help With Math Problems

Elementary school teachers Tracey Smith, left, and Shari Sternberg on the math-help TV show.
Elementary school teachers Tracey Smith, left, and Shari Sternberg on the math-help TV show. (By Christopher Anderson -- The Gazette)
By Dennis Carter
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2007

The "on air" sign flashed at the Bonnie Johns Educational Media Center in Landover, and teacher Steve Hollidge waited for the switchboard to light up. Within seconds, calls to the live television show "Count On Us" poured in from students stumped by their math homework.

"This is like the old days," said Hollidge, a physical education teacher at Glenarden Woods Elementary School, who operated the switchboard Sept. 26 for the show. "All the lines are filled up. . . . It's as lively as it's ever been."

The "old days" were less than a decade ago, when "Count On Us," a show produced by the Prince George's County school system, offered help with elementary and middle school math problems. The twice-weekly program was shown for 11 years before it went off the air in 2001 because of budget constraints.

"Count On Us" made its return Sept. 24, featuring show veterans and a new crop of math instructors.

Students can call or e-mail questions to instructors, who work each problem step-by-step on the air, urging callers to help with solutions. The first hour is aimed at elementary school math; the second half is for middle school math.

Producers said teachers and school officials, who urged their students to watch, were largely responsible for the successful comeback. More than 40 students called during the first show, a number comparable to the show's heyday, said a smiling Hollidge, as he sat at the switchboard.

Tracey Smith, a Clinton Grove Elementary School math coach and part of the six-member "Count On Us" teaching team, said students cannot resist calling after they hear their peers on television.

"It becomes something that just spreads," Smith said. "It really builds pride and enthusiasm in [math classes]."

Shari Sternberg, a Hyattsville Elementary School math resource teacher and one of the show's original stars, emphasized the show's benefits.

"We realized the demand back then, and we still see it today," she said after hosting the elementary half of the show Sept. 26. "We were all pretty upset when it went off [the air], so we're glad to see it come back."

The show's on-air teachers, who receive additional pay for their work, said they enjoy putting in the extra time.

Sternberg and Smith fielded questions on defining rhombuses and parallelograms, classifying quadrilaterals and understanding lessons in congruency.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company