It was the Monday morning session of one of our SAI classes about ten years ago. A fifth grade girl I’ll call Zosha plopped herself down in her seat in front of me and wrote on a piece of paper, “I hate math. I hate math.”

Hmm, I said to myself – “Well, this should be interesting. We’ll just do our normal, day-one activities and see where things go.”

So we did exactly that. All the students went through the usual hands-on activities with lots of work with color, shape, size, texture, music, and games. In SAI, we do math in ways that make sense. If you were present in our SAI sessions, you’d hear teachers explaining algebra to the students and then asking, “Is that a rule – or does that just make sense?” The kids get it. They see that they’re doing algebra in ways that simply make sense.

So as the morning unfolded, I didn’t pay any special attention to our I-hate-math girl. In fact, I forgot about her written remark altogether. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, as things turned out – I didn’t get a chance to even ask her how the session went for her.

The next morning, I saw Zosha come in to the classroom – with her mom right behind her. The mom marched right up to me and said, “I don’t know what you did yesterday… – but you did exactly what I was hoping would happen: she could hardly wait to get back here this morning.”

My reply? I said, “Yep – that happens several times every summer. But thank you for mentioning it.”

Zosha is the perfect example of our goal in SAI: to use algebra to turn kids on to math.