Manassas Park Middle School math teachers Jon Mamon and Leslie Harper have come up with an ingenious way to encourage good grades in their classrooms: pay for it.
The money will be fake, but Mamon and Harper hope the lessons are real. Students will get a salary based on their grades in their math classes and will be expected to pay bills, rent and income taxes and make investment decisions with their "paycheck," just like their parents.
The idea caught the attention of a panel of educators judging grant proposals as part of the Toyota Investment in Mathematics Excellence program, now in its third year. Mamon and Harper will receive $8,996 from the program over two years to buy financial planning software and other equipment to use in their classes.
The students "want to have more money, so they're going to work real hard to make more money," said Mamon, who teaches Algebra I and pre-algebra.
The "Math for Life" curriculum will reach all of the school's eighth-graders, regardless of what math course they will be taking. Parents will be expected to endorse their children's "paychecks," which will serve to let them know where students stand in their grades.
The grant program is administered by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Marilyn Hala, director of professional programs for the council, said the "Math for Life" curriculum appealed to judges because it teaches practical knowledge at an age when students are receptive.
"We're saying that the people at middle school need to learn about what's happening in real life, how much things cost and how to budget," Hala said.
In high schools, college preparatory math classes stress theoretical knowledge and move away from nuts-and-bolts topics such as how to fill out a check, she noted. "This is valuable information," Hala said.
Hala said the judges also were impressed that the "Math for Life" program showed a connection between its lessons and the Virginia Standards of Learning. "Not all teachers showed a link between their state and local standards," Hala said.
The Toyota grant was awarded to 35 teachers across the country out of more than 500 applications. The "Math for Life" program received close to the grant maximum of $10,000 for each school. The program has awarded nearly $1 million to schools nationwide.
CAPTION: New Dominion Middle School brought home a first place trophy in the King's Dominion Math and Science Day. More than 1,000 participants in Virginia, Washington, Maryland and West Virginia competed in the hands-on competition. New Dominion, which won four ribbons, came in first place overall for winning the most first, second and third prizes. Above, Juan Padilla holds the team's entry in the egg-drop competition while checking out their trophy with fellow eighth-grader Paul O'Connor, both 14. Right, Brian Garner, 16, Gabe McCloy, 14, and Robert Stout, 12, build a structure from blocks they used in the contest.