Innovations in Teaching Math to All Children

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By Marilyn Huerta
June 15, 2015

In June, the summer breeze blew through the CSUSM campus as North County elementary school teachers gathered to learn new methods for teaching math. They attended the Innovations in Elementary Mathematics Instruction for All Children: A Symposium for Multilingual Educators at California State University San Marcos. Hosted by the School of Education, and funded by the Virginia Hansen Family Endowment, this dynamic two-day workshop was deemed a success by the teachers, each of whom had an opportunity to attend a session in either English or Spanish.

Kamii, who has past experience working with the renown philosopher and developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, lead the session in English and focused her discussion on the importance of children better understanding the concepts of math logic and making sense of numbers. She spoke about the significance of child development and mentioned that it was best for students to first explore how to solve a problem before they are introduced to symbols and math language.

Teachers inquired about using technology in the classroom as a part of common core requirements. Kamii was not a big fan of using technology in the early years of development, as it requires skipping some essential brain development steps. She recommended that children needed to first try to solve the math problems before they are taught the process or before they use any technology. Once students attempt to solve the equations, they are to explain “how” they produced the answer. She points out that students do not simply memorize steps in the problem, but rather they need to be permitted to choose a method that they best understand. Children need to be encouraged to become independent thinkers.

“Give the kids a chance to struggle with it first and then ask them to reflect on their answer,” Catherine Weldon, teacher attending the workshop recalls. She goes on to say, “This is a different process then the traditional process when teachers write math steps on the board and the students are expected to just follow them. Some children develop at different stages, so some will need to use a process that makes sense to them,” Weldon shares.

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Professor Gustavo Saldaña, an engineer and teacher educator at the National University of Mexico, employed creativity in leading the Spanish workshop. His participants interacted with hands-on board games and playful activities that provided them with new methods and strategies in teaching geometric concepts. This group shared how much they appreciated the introduction to new teaching techniques, and also appreciated the opportunity to hear the explanations in Spanish. “This is so helpful,” said one of the teachers, “I wish we could attend more workshops in Spanish.”

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In both sessions, the presenters discussed how children’s cultural background influences their education. Why doesn’t a child speak up in class and ask for help when s/he is struggling? As the conversation continued, teachers explored math reasoning and they gained a better understanding as to why children struggle with math. Teachers agreed that they must continue to encourage their students to ask questions and they understand that the children must be part of the teaching process.

These information-packed workshops ended with a time for reflection and debrief of the value of the workshops. Teachers left feeling inspired and excited about implementing new strategies in their classrooms. For many, the conversation will continue.

The Virginia Hanson Symposium Foundation supported this symposium.

Helping the Elderly Prevent Falls

By Triveni Sheshadr
March 25, 2015

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The statistics are sobering. Every year one in three adults ages 65 and older experiences a fall. As a result many suffer fractures, injuries and, in some cases, even death. Falls are a leading cause of hospitalizations among the elderly.

Hyun Gu Kang, assistant professor of kinesiology at Cal State San Marcos, is intrigued by why falls occur and what can be done to prevent them.

“In kinesiology, we learn about how balance, stability and postural control systems work,” Kang said. “I want to know what is happening when they don’t work. Two of my great grandparents lived up to 100. Both had falls and passed away within a week of the incidents. They were healthy and it was the fall that took them.”

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In February Kang launched a nine-week fall prevention program at the San Marcos Senior Center. Nine elderly men and women enrolled in the twice-weekly class taught by certified FallProof™ instructor Mary Jo Preti. The class allows the seniors to learn valuable fall prevention strategies while giving CSUSM’s kinesiology, nursing and human development students the opportunity to collaborate and practice their classroom learning in a real world setting.

Kang believes that falls are not an inevitable part of aging.

“Falls are preventable,” he said. “The prevention is not always expensive or complicated. I wanted our students to have the knowledge and skills to do something about it. They have a responsibility to the community.”

The class is based on FallProofTM, a prevention program developed by Debra Rose, professor of kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton. Rose’s program, used in retirement communities and senior centers all over the country, includes screening and assessment, and exercises to improve balance, gait, flexibility, posture, strength and endurance. Instructors use devices such as stability balls, cones and foam pads in the exercise routines.

“We improve balance by taking away the things we use to help ourselves,” Kang said. “We ask the seniors to place their feet on squishy foam pads so that they cannot use their feet to balance. Sometimes we ask them to close their eyes so that they cannot use their vision. We take away the use of the arms, so that they find other ways to balance.”

On a recent afternoon, about a dozen CSUSM students stood alert, watchful and ready to help as the seniors began their exercises. Among them was Chris Dobson, a kinesiology major, who walked with Mary Wood as she made her way around numerous orange cones placed on the floor.“It’s been a great experience,” Chris said. “I’m learning how to interact and engage with seniors, and practice safety protocols. I am thinking of becoming a certified fall prevention instructor.”

For seniors like Wood, the class is an opportunity to learn exercises that can keep her safe.

“I move too fast and I tend to fall,” Wood said. “I’m also trying to improve my balance and the strength in my legs. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

As they work together the CSUSM students and the seniors in the class have developed an easy camaraderie. While the seniors are appreciative of the attentive help in the class, the students are learning from the intergenerational experience.

Audrey Oliver took slow and steady steps as she walked backwards while kinesiology major Breanna Merson kept a close watch on her.

Oliver beamed at the student.

“She reminds me of my granddaughter,” she said.

Merson said she enjoyed working with the seniors.

“It’s great to work with Audrey and all the wonderful people here,” she said. “I have grown attached to all of them.”

Nursing student Lea Lewis has seen many instances of seniors who end up in hospitals after falls.

“It’s a great idea to teach fall prevention to seniors because it’s such a big issue in health care and the aging population is growing so much,” Lewis said. “Falls can lead to so many complications and hospitalizations.”

Class instructor Mary Jo Preti said it was a great benefit to have the CSUSM students assist her in the class.

“They are very good,” Preti said. “I can do so much more in the class with their help. They have great suggestions. There’s a lot of give and take both ways.”

As the class wrapped up, Preti stood in the center of the room and looked around.

“That was very nicely done interns,” she said to the CSUSM students. “Let’s have a round of applause all around.”

Healthcare with Heart: Clinics Provide Free Services Across San Diego County

By Triveni Sheshadri
March 18, 2015
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During a rare lull in her busy afternoon, Alia Holyfield loaded a washer in the back room of an Oceanside health clinic. Before that she had answered phones, took a patient’s blood pressure and medical history, and checked inventory in the supply room.

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It’s all in a day’s work for Holyfield, a student manager at the free clinic, one of four in San Diego County run by the School of Nursing (SoN) at Cal State San Marcos. Known collectively as the Student Healthcare Project, the clinics are managed by students who work under the supervision of licensed volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners and SoN faculty to provide free services to poor and uninsured community residents.

Holyfield, who will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, hones her clinical skills by performing EKGs, changing catheters and doing pregnancy tests. She is learning about clinic operations as she manages inventory and updates electronic medical records.

The experience has made her keenly attuned to the needs of the clinic’s patients—the working poor, uninsured, the homeless and those who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Working here has been an amazing experience for me,” Holyfield said. “This allows me to give back to patients who have had very little access to care. I have learned how to build trust and rapport with our patients. It’s wonderful to see that they look upon the clinic as a place they can come to.”

Dr. William “Gerry” Hardison, volunteer medical director of the Student Healthcare Project, has observed firsthand the impact of the clinic experience.

“The experience is unique for student nurses,” said Hardison, a retired physician. “They are case managers. They are social workers. The patient clientele that they see here, they will never see anywhere else. They learn a tremendous amount. I have learned a lot.”

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The Student Healthcare Project was the brainchild of SoN faculty member Linnea Axman who broached the idea to her graduate students five years ago. Mary Baker and Michelle Alfe, now faculty members at SoN, jumped at the opportunity. The group began to work on the details of opening the first free clinic that could serve the homeless population in Ocean Beach while providing SoN’s baccalaureate and graduate students the opportunity to fulfill clinical rotation, community service and leadership requirements.

The Ocean Beach clinic opened in 2010. Three other locations were added in Ocean Beach, Oceanside and National City.

Baker is a teacher, mentor and sounding board for the nursing students who run the four clinics. As clinic co-director, she splits her time between all four sites as she guides students through every aspect of clinic operations, whether it’s writing grants, finding the best source for supplies or securing space for a wellness class.

One patient the students have come to know well is Terry Tyler. Soft spoken with a ready smile, the Philadelphia native had not seen a doctor in more than a decade until his swollen legs brought him to the Oceanside clinic about a year ago. Since then, the clinic has become his medical home. He comes in for regular checkups and has been able to manage his blood pressure. He helps around the clinic in any way he can. He pointed out with pride the pictures he had hung in the hallways and exam rooms for a recent fundraiser.

“I would be near death if it were not for the clinic,” said Tyler who lives in an Escondido shelter. “These people are my family. I feel at home here.”

The clinics offer a wide array of services including primary care, health education, mental health services, lab tests and case management for patients of all ages. In 2014 there were a combined 3,000 patient visits at the four locations. Nursing students also assist patients with enrollment in Medi-Cal and Covered California health plans, the CalFresh nutrition program and services such as transitional housing.

“We try to pick students that we feel would be the best fit here,” Baker said. “They have to be independent. They are responsible for everything from cleaning the bathroom to calling 911 if it’s necessary.”

Laketa Ducat, a nursing senior, fits the bill. She came to the Oceanside clinic to fulfill leadership requirements last fall and organized group walks, yoga classes and nutrition programs for patients and area residents. Energized by her experience, she returned in January as a clinic manager. Her responsibilities range from greeting patients to maintaining electronic health records, supervising volunteer staff and ordering clinic supplies.

Like many other students who work at the clinic, Ducat is grateful for the opportunity to serve patients who have had little access to health care.

“I hear from them about their struggles and needs, and celebrate their triumphs no matter how small,” she said. “I am given a daily opportunity to put a new face on a health care system that previously represented poor experiences or even failures in the past for our clients. I don’t take that charge lightly. Our entire society benefits when we empower individuals to manage and care for their health.”

Like their students, SoN faculty members are drawn to the clinic for the chance to make a difference. Among them is Susan Andera.

“We are the medical home for people of all ages. Many did not have one before we came along,” said Andera, a nurse practitioner. “There’s definitely a great need. It’s challenging work. We give a lot but we get a lot more back.”

The SoN Student Health Project depends on donations from individuals and grants from private foundations for funding. Baker and her students write grants. They have reined in costs by securing free space donated by churches. They have formed partnerships with pharmacies and labs for subsidized medications and lab services. Recently, students organized a sale of art donated by local artists.

“We have some great partners who help us but it still costs a lot of money,” Baker said.

To learn more about how you can support the Student Healthcare Project, contact Mary Baker at sonhealthproject@csusm.edu.

“Being here teaches students some things they can’t learn in a classroom,” Baker said. “It changes the way they look at homeless people and others who are underserved. They hear their back stories and get to know them as people.”

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One patient the students have come to know well is Terry Tyler. Soft spoken with a ready smile, the Philadelphia native had not seen a doctor in more than a decade until his swollen legs brought him to the Oceanside clinic about a year ago. Since then, the clinic has become his medical home. He comes in for regular checkups and has been able to manage his blood pressure. He helps around the clinic in any way he can. He pointed out with pride the pictures he had hung in the hallways and exam rooms for a recent fundraiser.

“I would be near death if it were not for the clinic,” said Tyler who lives in an Escondido shelter. “These people are my family. I feel at home here.”

The clinics offer a wide array of services including primary care, health education, mental health services, lab tests and case management for patients of all ages. In 2014 there were a combined 3,000 patient visits at the four locations. Nursing students also assist patients with enrollment in Medi-Cal and Covered California health plans, the CalFresh nutrition program and services such as transitional housing.

“We try to pick students that we feel would be the best fit here,” Baker said. “They have to be independent. They are responsible for everything from cleaning the bathroom to calling 911 if it’s necessary.”

Laketa Ducat, a nursing senior, fits the bill. She came to the Oceanside clinic to fulfill leadership requirements last fall and organized group walks, yoga classes and nutrition programs for patients and area residents. Energized by her experience, she returned in January as a clinic manager. Her responsibilities range from greeting patients to maintaining electronic health records, supervising volunteer staff and ordering clinic supplies.

Like many other students who work at the clinic, Ducat is grateful for the opportunity to serve patients who have had little access to health care.

“I hear from them about their struggles and needs, and celebrate their triumphs no matter how small,” she said. “I am given a daily opportunity to put a new face on a health care system that previously represented poor experiences or even failures in the past for our clients. I don’t take that charge lightly. Our entire society benefits when we empower individuals to manage and care for their health.”

Like their students, SoN faculty members are drawn to the clinic for the chance to make a difference. Among them is Susan Andera.

“We are the medical home for people of all ages. Many did not have one before we came along,” said Andera, a nurse practitioner. “There’s definitely a great need. It’s challenging work. We give a lot but we get a lot more back.”

The SoN Student Health Project depends on donations from individuals and grants from private foundations for funding. Baker and her students write grants. They have reined in costs by securing free space donated by churches. They have formed partnerships with pharmacies and labs for subsidized medications and lab services. Recently, students organized a sale of art donated by local artists.

“We have some great partners who help us but it still costs a lot of money,” Baker said.

To learn more about how you can support the Student Healthcare Project, contact Mary Baker at sonhealthproject@csusm.edu.