Math students in Nunapitchuk get class shirts

Geometry: (Back row) Anthony Sallison, Asst. Site Admin. Peter Hawkins, Jem Alexie, Wassillie Alexie, David Jacobs, Moses Brink, Crystal Brink, Teacher Lonny Cruff (Front row) Jaden Andrew, Nicole Twitchell, Chelsea Alexie, Miriam Enoch, Nikki Nick, Carlynn Tobeluk. Not pictured: Alexz Riley, Anders Tobeluk, Chantel Tobeluk
Algebra II: (Back row) Teacher Lonny Cruff, Zachariah Brink, Andrew Frank, Karla Alexie, Site Administrator Daryl Daugaard, (Front row) Walter Jimmy, Stanley Flynn, Carlson Tobeluk. Not pictured: Nathan Andrew, Agatha Flynn, Elena Frederick, Jonathan Wassillie Photos courtesy of Lonny Cruff

Secondary mathematics teacher Lonny Cruff at Anna Tobeluk Memorial School was looking for a way for students in his advanced math classes to feel more like they were part of a group. After talking with a colleague at a professional development conference, he decided to come up with a class shirt for each of the classes that were made up of students in the upper grades: Geometry and Algebra II.

Another place where the idea of working as a group came from were Cruff’s conversations with local elders in Nunapitchuk.

“Whenever I talked to elders, the idea of community and cooperation came through as a key Yup’ik value,” said Cruff.

Figuring out ways to encourage and enhance that community seemed a great way to improve his student’s performance and achievement as well.

“One of my greatest challenges is helping my kids understand that they DO have the ability to do this kind of work, and helping them believe in themselves enough to reach these high levels of achievement.”

To personalize the shirts and promote the idea of membership in a special group, each student was given the opportunity to sign their name on a piece of paper that was scanned and screen printed on the back of the shirt.

The best education is what happens when people learn from each other, whether it is students helping each other, or when adults learn from kids, or when people cooperate across all sorts of other boundaries. Integrating traditional styles of learning – Yuuyaraq – with math topics in school has led to better student learning outcomes and more effective instruction.

Article and photos courtesy of Lonny Cruff of the Anna Tobeluk Memorial School in Nunapitchuk, Alaska.