Unique courses help students focus in summer school

Monday, June 14, 2010 | 6:11 p.m. CDT; updated 10:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sharon Jacoby leads a classroom of fourth and fifth graders in a math lesson on the first day of summer school at Fairview Elementary School. Jacoby explained to students that this class uses math skills in a fun way to solve crimes. Today's crime involved a burglary at a mansion.

COLUMBIA —Sharon Jacoby has a case for her students to crack.

“Do you know who Sherlock Holmes is?” she asked the small group of students sitting at her feet.


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The soon-to-be-fourth graders sat quietly, holding clipboards and pencils in their laps.

Joseph Breen, 9, stretched up on his knees to raise his hand.

“He’s a detective,” Joseph answered.

Jacoby nodded.

“This is a class about being a detective,” she explained. “We’ll use math skills in a fun way. We need these skills to solve a crime.”

Over the next hour, students in Jacoby’s “Sherlock Holmes” course at Fairview Elementary School used mathematics to begin cracking the case of a burglary on a millionaire’s yacht. Jacoby said it might take them the whole course to solve the case.

The students used addition to determine how much cash was stolen, multiplication to discover the safe combination and geometry to learn more about the stolen jewelry.

Jacoby, a fifth grade teacher at Fairview during the regular school year, created the course herself.

Jacoby said she used the book “Using Math to Solve a Crime” as a springboard to develop her lesson plans. She already had the book from a previous book fair.

“I like math,” Jacoby said. “I tend to just collect math things.”

This is Jacoby’s third year teaching summer school.

“We try to do things that are learning but more movement,” Jacoby said, comparing summer classes to the regular school year. This includes hands-on activities and the constant switch between classrooms for the students.

Indiana Sjahputera, 9, a student in Jacoby’s class, said she likes the excitement rotation brings to summer school.

“You get to rotate and you get to do fun activities, not school boring stuff,” Indiana said. “It’s learning in a fun way.”

Indiana said she has attended summer school every year since preschool.

“(My parents) didn’t make me do it, I wanted to do it,” Indiana said. “But they wanted me to do it, too, so I guess it was both.”

Indiana said she likes summer school because she gets to see her friends and meet new people, and her mom likes summer school because it keeps Indiana entertained and keeps her from watching television all day.

Indiana’s best friend, Stella Heflin, 9, also said she enjoys summer school. This is Stella’s second year in the program.

Before attending summer school, Stella said she went to camp. Now, she does both.

“I go to summer camp in the middle of summer school,” Stella said. “At that time there are lots of ticks, so I like to be inside.” Indiana and Stella laughed at the thought of bugs.

Stella said her favorite part of the first day was her “Great American Highway” class. During the class, the students will map Route 66 and take an imaginary trip across the country.

Stella and Indiana showed off their geographical knowledge of Route 66, rattling off every state the highway passes through from Illinois to California.

Finishing out their first day of classes, the two girls turned their attention to the assignment for the “Sherlock Holmes” class. Jacoby introduced the topic of geometry by asking her students to sort translucent plastic shapes into octagons, quadrilaterals and triangles.

“There’s only one of these,” Indiana said, holding up a green diamond-shaped piece.

Stella glanced at the shapes on her own board before generously proclaiming, “You can have it.”

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