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Senator gets math lesson from Jennie Rogers class

August 26, 2003|HERB BROCK

Veteran U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has given political and legislative lessons to presidents and other leading senators. But on Monday morning, the tables were turned on the No. 2-ranking Senate Republican.

Kentucky's senior senator became the student, and fifth-graders became the teachers.

McConnell visited Jennie Rogers Elementary School where students demonstrated "technology at work" by giving him an example of how computers funded by the federal government are used in the classroom. The computers came directly from the Computers for Learning program.

Upon entering the school, the senator, who has been making several tours of Kentucky schools, factories and other facilities during the now-ending August congressional recess, was greeted by Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland, Jean Crowley, board chairwoman, and fellow board member Tim Montgomery, Sandy Embree, district elementary education director, Mardi Montgomery, elementary gifted and talented coordinator, and Jennie Rogers Principal Danielle Dampier.

McConnell was escorted to Tonya Boyle's fifth-grade classroom where he was welcomed by her class and the technology teachers at the district's five schools. The first order of business for the class was to teach the senator a little something about how computers can teach numbers - and do it in a fun way through games. They used a projector screen and operated the games by touching certain places on the game board projected on the screen.

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First, students Davis Brown, Sheldon Martin and Heath Mountjoy introduced the senator to the Place Value Game. The kids rapidly selected one number after another to fill in blocks in a linear sequence. They were trying to arrive at the largest possible number based on their selections. For instance, Heath came up with 970,775,554, a little shy of the largest possible number of 977,755,554.

Boyle then invited McConnell to play the game.

"Are you talking to me?" said the senator with a look of surprise. "I'm not even sure what town I'm in this morning, and you want me to play a complicated numbers game."

McConnell played and, to put it kindly, didn't fare quite as well as his 10- and 11-year-old teachers.

He was introduced by Cayle Crown-Weber to a game called Matho, in which you plug numbers into boxes arranged in a square and, depending on the numbers picked by the student, a little green comic caricature of a worm occasionally appears. McConnell let Cayle deal with the numbers and the worms.

Boyle's class members showed off not only their knowledge of numbers but also different ways they use to celebrate their success when they do well in their games.

At Boyle's direction, the class demonstrated three different "celebrations": The football celebration in which they grunted "huh" three times, raised both arms and yelled, "touchdown!"; the valley girl celebration, in which they said in pure valley girl manner, "Oh... my... gosh"; and the "firecracker celebration," in which they made a swoosh noise, raised their arms upward, loudly clapped their hands together, slowly dropped their arms and said, "ooh, aah."

In a question-and-answer session, the senator was asked what it takes to be a senator and what kind of work he does in the high chamber.

The senator told the class that he has been to the White House several times to discuss legislation with President Bush. In the Senate, McConnell serves as Republican "whip," a role in which he attempts to get as many Republicans behind certain bills as possible. The position, he said, requires an ability to count heads - another different, more political kind of a numbers game than what Boyle's class is used to playing.



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