Wapak High School math teacher receives grant

A Wapakoneta High School teacher plans to use products she won through a grant to better her classroom and curriculum.

Math intervention specialist Michelle Knippen received third-place for an essay she wrote for the grant, earning $200 worth of product from the Friends Business Source catalog.

Items she requested, which she said would aid her in her teaching are two magnetic pizzas for working on fractions, two containers of outdoor chalk, 10 packs of index cards, and two packs of sticky notes.

“Math is a skill that students use throughout their lives,” Knippen wrote in her essay. “They will use math strategies to manage personal finance, buy or lease a car, buy or rent a home, invest in the stock market and to figure out a number of every day activities. The purpose of my project is to heighten the academic level of mathematics with the use of real world applications and use more manipulatives in the classroom to show students a connection between math and every day life.”

The 10th-year teacher of eighth-grade through high school senior students said through innovative, differentiated lesson plans students will be able to fully grasp fractions, percents, decimals, money, measurement, time, and problem solving, helping students improve their higher level thinking skills.

“This multisensory learning environment not only engages students but also shows students how to learn and have fun at the same time,” Knippen said.

She said while many students struggle with the basic concept of mathematics, the use of manipulatives and real world applications engages students in the learning environment and helps them learn math in multiple ways.

“Research has shown that the use of math manipulatives in the classroom helps to make students more successful,” Knippen said.

She said her plans also enable her to have more time for one-on-one and small group instruction, as students practice the skills they are learning.

“This project will help reinforce the importance of math concepts with the incorporation of meaningful, engaging, interactive learning within my classroom leading to improved math skills, which in turn will help improve our state assessments,” Knippen said.

Since students learn in a variety of ways, she said the help these visual tools should provide is expected to develop a better understanding of the concepts, problem solving and reasoning, as well as develop real world connections and build communications between students and their peers and adults.

“The students love getting new hands-on materials to explore and learn with,” Knippen said, thanking Friends for the materials.

Friends, which is headquartered in Findlay, awards the WRITE (We Reward Innovative Teaching Endeavors) grant annually for a total of $1,200 divided among five teachers. Educators in a variety of subjects from throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania competed for the funding for their innovative classroom ideas.

“It’s really neat to be able to give back,” said Nancy Sarson, school division manager for the company.

Sarson said that is something especially important to them at a time when the economy has been tough on everyone and schools are having to cut their budgets.

“Studies show that teachers spend between $500 to $1,000 out of their own pockets every year for the materials they need to teach,” Sarson said. “They have a passion and we wanted to help them.”

Bryan Leonard, account manager with Friends, said Knippen’s dedication and passion to her work with special education students came through in her essay and as soon as they read it they knew she had to be one of the winners.