A Story of ... A Passion for Hands-on Math

Murray Elementary's Sara Phillips has a Passion for Hands-on Math
Rich Boschetti, DPIE Academy Director
November 18, 2019
Ms Sara Phillips

Ms Sara Phillips Murray Elementary Teacher

Ms Sara Phillips, a 4th grade teacher at Magical Murray Elementary School, has always enjoyed getting her hands dirty. She grew up in the small town of Prunedale, California which is located between the agricultural fields of Gilroy and the beaches of Monterey.  I grew up on two acres of land that included, horses, trails, beaches and a lot of open space to explore. I learned from a lot of hands-on experiences while working alongside my dad,” explained Sara.

On the weekends I would help my dad with projects on our property.  We would draw up plans together, then spend time measuring, cutting and building.  It wasn’t unusual for me to work in the corral making repairs with him.  I didn’t realize at the time, but I was learning about measurements, area, perimeter as well as life skills like, responsibility and teamwork,”
said Sara.  “I feel so fortunate because these hands-on experiences taught me so much about life.

For the last 19 years as a teacher, Sara has continued to search for ways to make learning meaningful for her students and this is one of the reasons she decided to offer her Hands-On Math Challenges course as part of the DPIE After School Program at Murray Elementary School.  Her enthusiasm for her program is obvious.

What excites you about teaching your Hands-on Math Challenges course and how do you keep it fresh from session to session?
I am passionate about giving students as many hands-on experiences as possible.  My goal is to provide engaging and interactive experiences for them that make learning fun.  It is so rewarding to see students learn by doing and experience the joy of learning in new ways. 

I design lessons for the Hands-On Math Challenges class based on the students needs.  I look at how I can support them in their current math while adding fun challenges to the concepts they are learning in their regular class. As much as possible, I try to design lessons based on the time of year, as an example, we created Pumpkin Pushers and Flying Bats around Halloween and measured distances and re-engineered projects to improve their performance.  Kids had to use math to be successful with their creations. 

Parents have told us that their kids really enjoy your class, what kinds of activities will kids be doing and learning that you’re excited about?
For the upcoming winter session, we will make parachutes for Santa, design a sleigh and create a toy using recycled materials.  Each lesson is designed to use real-life math skills such as measuring, rounding, adding, etc. There are times in my class where students are so engaged in their projects that they don’t even realize how much math they’re using. It is so much fun for me to watch them work through the challenges I put in front of them and to see the solutions they come up with.

Sara Phillips Hands-on Math Challenge class.

When your 10 week course ends, what are you hoping the kids will take away? 
My wish for students is that they will enjoy hands-on learning as much as I did as a child and will embrace a love of learning and a sense of accomplishment when they take on new challenges.

It’s been said that students remember 50% of what they hear, 75% of what they hear & see and 100% of what they hear, see and do.  Magical Murray’s Sara Phillips is doing all she can to help students learn to make sure math makes sense and their projects all add up in the end.

To enroll in the winter session of Hands-On Math Challenges at Murray, click here.