“Credit Cards” in the Classroom: Interactive Math at Mackeben

Second-grade teachers at Mackeben Elementary are getting credit for a creative approach to adapting math curriculum to the Common Core Standards.

Leveraging the tablet devices that all elementary students receive through District 158’s 1:1 Initiative, teachers created credit cards using QR codes to help teach students about the concepts of addition, subtraction, and making change.

“What we decided was to go a little more hands-on with math with money and give the kids a perspective as if they were using money in a real-life situation,” said teacher Robin Doubek.

In class, students play the roles of both customers and merchants, buying and selling products used in the classroom. When a credit card is scanned using a tablet, the seller is taken to a Google Doc on which sellers enter the customer, item, and price. Students must work together to ensure that the charges are accurate and make adjustments as needed.

The buyers also must track their purchases in a Google Doc to calculate and balance their expenses and savings daily.

Doubek said a team of four teachers at Mackeben worked on the curriculum to help students expand their understanding of concepts, instead of just touching on them.

With the new standards, teacher Kieran Zastrow said the team could no longer rely on existing teacher guides and student textbooks.

“The most challenging aspect of doing this Common Core math was that fact that there were no materials to follow,” Zastrow said.

The team met for an hour after school weekly for about a year to plan the new units. But, she said, all that extra work upfront continues to pay off with lessons that are more engaging for students and more fun for teachers.

“We’re seeing them more engaged, on task, and excited about math. They ask everyday, ‘how long is it until math?’ ‘when can we add more to our checkbooks?’ and ‘how can I earn more money so that I have enough to pay for for the things that we need?’” Doubek said. “They’re showing the extent of the Common Core State Standards that we were hoping to see from them.”

Aside from the investment of time, the cost to implement the new activities was negligible.

“It didn’t cost anything other than some printer ink,” Doubek said. “They’re using their tablets and the QR software that was already loaded onto them, so it was a great way for us to give them that real-life experience.”