Sparking the Interest of the Next Generation of Creative Problem Solvers

When I was in 11th grade, my physics teacher, Dr. Stoneback, shocked the entire class — literally — while demonstrating a Van de Graaff sphere. With one student touching the odd-looking silver machine, the rest of us linked hands in a circle, expecting our hair to stand up on end. But the instant the last person in the chain touched the sphere, our “circuit” closed, and the charge it released made everyone practically jump out of their skins.

Looking back, the voltage may have been a bit too high, but the experience got the whole class — indeed, the whole school — talking. It also (pardon the pun) supercharged my interest in math and science, ultimately propelling me toward a degree in astrophysics.

Aside from teaching me about electromagnetism, that day taught me another important lesson: Inspirational moments in school, the kind that transform students from passive attendees into active participants in their own learning, often come not from a textbook or a worksheet, but from fun, hands-on experiences. Ms. Napolitano, my daughter’s fourth-grade science teacher, could have simply explained “force equals mass times acceleration” on a whiteboard, for example. Instead, she had her students make marshmallow catapults and discover Newton’s first law for themselves — to the profound chagrin of the kids who missed that particular class.

This is exactly the kind of learning we support at the Overdeck Family Foundation and Bedtime Math. We believe that a solid, healthy, early start sets children up for success at home, in school, and in life. As kids get older, great teachers, stimulating content, and mind-expanding challenges inspire their love of learning. That’s why Bedtime Math has launched thousands of free after-school math clubs: so kids can dive into hands-on, playful activities, turning an often abstract subject into “the cool thing to do.” And —> Read More