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South Jordan Journal

Welby students solve math problems to locate their missing mascot

Apr 03, 2022 07:04PM ● By Julie Slama

Welby fifth grade teacher Michelle Smith helps her class, as special agents, with their math problems that reveal a code to solve the case of the missing school mascot. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

Thanks to some Welby students, Special Agent Whiskers has been safely located.

The mystery began in mid-February when the school’s mascot went missing. Special Agent in Charge, aka Principal Aaron Ichimura in shades, told Michelle Smith’s fifth grade class as newly deputized special agents, their mission was to solve math problems for secret letters. Once the problems were all solved, they would have the code to reveal the location of the missing mascot.

But it wasn’t as simple as that. Wearing special agent stickers, the students went to their class to find it a maze of math problems that were attached to strings that crisscrossed the room. The room was dark with the problems illuminated by colored café lights and black lights.

“Ms. Smith is always looking for exciting ways for students to learn and review concepts,” Ichimura said. “It’s always appreciated when teachers go through extra efforts to make learning a fun experience for students.”

This day, students were reviewing their math, answering “how can you easily solve two-digit division” or solving 52/103 or identifying which is the divisor in a math problem.

“The kids love when we intertwine something unusual into a normal day, so to have an adventure while reviewing for a test, it makes it fun,” Smith said.

She recently received the black lights when her Donors Choose grant was funded and has plans to use them in other fun ways.

“This is not just a way for them to review the concepts, but it’s a fun way to make sure they understand, and it’s inquiry-based,” Smith said. “If they have questions about learning, they ask. They also are moving about; I can’t expect them to sit all day long.”

Fifth grader Aaron Beck said he appreciated the chance to decode the mystery of Special Agent Whiskers while doing math problems.

“By solving the math problems, I’m decoding the secret message,” he said. “It’s a fun and interactive way to do math.”

Classmate Charly Stoker said that some problems were easy to solve while others they had to slow down to make sure they got the answers correctly.

“We’re practicing for the test,” she said. “Ms. Smith tries to make all our learning fun.”

Her friend, Sela Maumau said Ms. Smith recently dressed up to help them learn their history lessons.

“She dressed up like [Meriwether] Lewis when we were learning about the westward expansion with her coon hat and ox bag,” she said.

Smith also recently dressed as Ben Franklin when her students were learning about the Declaration of Independence.

“I try to bring history to life, and in any way I can, I make learning fun and engaging,” she said.

Ichimura appreciates her ingenuity.

“She’s very creative and looks for new ad fun ways to teach the kids the core curriculum,” he said. “The vibe I get is that these students are very excited about it. They’re hyped up and that’s a good thing, especially as they get into older grades; she has a way to get students excited about learning and par