Rice-backed project goes live to help HISD kids with mathematics

‘Math-A-Letics’ scores with grade schoolers
Rice-backed project goes live to help HISD kids with mathematics

Rice News staff

When you talk with Coach Carolyn, be sure to ask her how things are adding up … and subtracting and dividing.


Carolyn White, associate director of elementary and intermediate programs at the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP), is co-host of “Math-A-Letics,” an award-winning Houston Independent School District (HISD) production that has aired on the district’s cable channel every weekday since 2007.

What’s new is that “Math-A-Letics” this week became a live one-hour call-in show. During the show, which will air Tuesdays at 4 p.m., Coach Carolyn and her cohorts answer math questions from callers from the target K-5 audience or from anyone else who dials in with a calculation conundrum.

“We’re really excited about the live show,” said White, a longtime HISD educator and RUSMP master teacher who, a few years ago, joined RUSMP full time. RUSMP collaborates on the production. “We’ll have three HISD numeracy specialists manning the phones and taking calls from students, and we’ll solve their problems on air.”

White’s co-host is “Coach” Lance Menster, HISD’s manager of elementary mathematics. Their co-stars are a pair of math-loving puppets, Arithmeticia and Zero the Hero, who add a kid-friendly element to the show. Arithmeticia enjoys think-aloud problem solving with the coaches, while Zero naturally loves problems that involve zeroes.


Each week before the calls begin flowing, the coaches will teach lessons on subjects that range from simple math to more complicated concepts, including fractions, place values, measurements and geometry. Some lessons focus on problem solving, family math and number sense.

It’s all fun and games, even if the subject matter is serious — as is the show’s intent.

“They use the puppets to make it seem less threatening,” said Anne Papakonstantinou, RUSMP director. “But it’s good mathematics — they develop important math concepts as well as procedures. It’s a really good show.”

School Mathematics Project
Learn more about Rice’s initiative to help math teachers and school administrators in the classroom

Papakonstantinou is proud of RUSMP’s nearly 25-year relationship with HISD, which has produced a number of initiatives in addition to ”Math-A-Letics,” including a televised Algebra I show that proved popular with high school students and their teachers.

In fact, White said, high schoolers have been known to tune in to “Math-A-Letics” now and then for a little refresher. “And we’ve had high school teachers ask for copies of the show, believe it or not,” White said. “Young teachers look at the show for the pedagogy. Grandparents are a big audience too, because when they have their grandkids over, they know they can watch the show together.”

“Math-A-Lectics” airs live on Comcast Cable’s channel 18 and ATT’s U-verse channel 99 every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Pre-taped shows air Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m. and Thursdays at 7 p.m. The show also streams live over the Internet at http://www.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectDS/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=b05e6f556befc010VgnVCM10000052147fa6RCRD.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.