Not Your Average Boot Camp: Michigan Students Combine Math and Fitness

Kids today spend more time engaged with electronics and technology than ever before, leaving many with little interest in exercise or homework.

At Novi Meadows School in southeast Michigan, a team of dedicated teachers might have figured out the key to getting their fifth- and sixth-grade students engaged with both of these activities through a program called Math Boot Camp.

It began as a program for students who needed extra help with their math homework before or after school, with the added benefit of incorporating running into the curriculum. This helped to address the challenge that many students are often unable to get the math support they need at home.

Teacher pushing stroller with students
Mrs. Wellock’s students help her push the baby stroller to finish off their 3.1 miles.

It’s not uncommon for parents to feel lost about math concepts they learned decades earlier. For kids, this can lead to frustration, incomplete assignments and a lack of attention during math class.

Trisha Wellock, who teaches sixth grade at Novi Meadows, volunteered to help lead Math Boot camp after being encouraged by other teachers to combine two of her two favorite things, math and running. Putting her skills to good use also helped get students excited about learning and fitness.

Twice a week students and teachers would get together to do 30 minutes of math and 30 minutes of running. They ultimately were training for a 5K race.

Through Math Boot Camp, teachers had an opportunity to get to know kids better and enjoy time spent out of the classroom. The program expanded across the school rapidly, growing from six participating classrooms last year to 12 in 2017. More and more Meadows students want to be part of a class that participates in Math Boot Camp.

Boy and Girl running
Math Boot Camp runners pushed each other all the way to the finish line.

“In training, students started asking how far did we run today, instead of how much longer do we have left to go,” said Wellock. “In the beginning, students wanted to stand by their water bottles, but now they do not want to be caught walking or taking breaks.”

While Wellock noticed improvements in math, especially when it comes to completed homework assignments, the best thing about the program for her was seeing how much the students encouraged one another while running.

In late May, more than 200 Math Boot Camp participants gathered at the school to run 3.1 miles, most of them completing a 5K for their very first time. Some were even accompanied by parents running alongside with them.

The students were proud of the hard work they put into crossing that finish line, knowing they earned their well-deserved medal. Even more, the students were proud of each other, cheering each other on as they ran, supporting each other with words of encouragement. It was not uncommon for students who completed the race to go back and run the last portion of the race again, being there for friends to help them cross the finish line.

School kids earning medals
Novi Meadows students show off their 5k medals.

Wellock said another great aspect was seeing the community support. Over 20 community sponsors came together to support the run, awards and a free celebration after the 5K for the runners.

In the end, it was an experience organizers hope will foster a long-term appreciation for math, running and camaraderie.

Photo credit: Meghan O’Brien, A Healthier Michigan

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