Students Get Reality Check in Hopewell Junior Math

Students Get Reality Check in Hopewell Junior Math
Posted on 09/23/2019
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Future Ready Fair at Hopewell JuniorMath teachers at Hopewell Junior School are addressing the age-old “When am I ever going to use this?” question - and then some. 

The department’s new “Reality Path Fridays” are challenging every single seventh- and eighth-grader to map out their futures with a strong consideration toward their personal finances. The project-based learning activity is designed to span two years, asking students to first shape their short-term plans and then look beyond high school. 

“It’s obviously our job to teach the curriculum,” said math teacher Blake Cripe, “but I also feel a responsibility to make it relevant for my students - to go beyond math word problems. We need to make school relevant to real life.” 

That’s the driving force behind the program Cripe and his math colleagues are building from scratch this year. Every Friday, they add a new layer, shifting from high school and post-graduate career path options to researching basic living expenses like home ownership, utilities, insurance and childcare, just to name a few. 

“It’s really just a reality check,” says Cripe, sharing that epiphanies like, “You mean, Wifi isn’t free?” are a regular occurrence in his classroom. “It forces students to think about the harsh reality of making ends meet and what may be required of them to lead the lifestyle they envision.”

Students like eighth-grader Josie Bencic have been surprised by the rigor of the activity. “I didn’t know that preparing for college and life after college would be this hard,” she said.

Part of Lakota’s focus on personalized learning with an emphasis on being future ready, the program encourages students to literally envision their futures and from there, determine what that means for them financially. The 4Es - Employment, Enrollment, Enlistment and Entrepreneurship - are part of that discussion. For a student choosing enrollment in higher education, their research will look much different than a student choosing post-secondary employment, for example.  

“The most relevant real-life application to math is finances because that’s everyday,” Cripe said. “When kids ask when they’ll ever use this, the honest answer is that it depends on what you do. But no matter what, you’re going to have to be financially responsible.” 

The end result will be much more than a budget, also including experiences with mock interviews, resume-building and college applications, depending on the individual student’s future pathway. 

The most recent support of that approach came in the form of the “Future Ready Fair,” where 12 local businesses set up tables in Hopewell’s gym. Every student visited the fair, traveling in groups to explore everything from starting salaries and positions to dress code and skill requirements of the industries they were interested in. The fair sets the stage for the remainder of the year, giving students ideas for which pathway they might choose. 

““It’s been really helpful to start now and feel more prepared for what’s next and how to be successful in life,” said eighth-grader Ben Isom.  

Participating businesses found value in the opportunity, too. “It was really important for me to be here today because we are all about promoting the trades and career readiness,”  said Teresa Scherl Gerdsen, who represented Apollo Home at the fair. She enjoyed teaching students about the apprenticeship option and seeing their reactions to learning that they could be paid to learn a skill as an alternative to paying for higher education. 

Even early on in the school year, Cripe is seeing the payoff in his students’ overall engagement. “Their conversations are so rich and engaging because they really have an opinion about it,” he said. “And while they may not always see the connection to the curriculum and admit their interest in it, but they can’t deny the relevance.”