By John Philip Wyllie
As a teacher at City Heights’ Monroe Clark Middle School, Sandra Sanchez is constantly looking for programs that will facilitate learning and allow her students, many of whom are recent immigrants, to close the gap on their more established peers. Located in one of the most ethnically diverse and economically challenged communities in San Diego, more than 30 languages are spoken at Monroe Clark Middle School, with Spanish being the most prevalent.
Last weekend, Sanchez accompanied a group of 10 students to the San Diego Hall of Champions where they competed in the Fifth Annual Fantasy Baseball Educational Tournament along with 240 sixth through tenth graders representing 32 schools from 15 San Diego County school districts. The two-day tournament included a complimentary trip to Qualcomm Stadium courtesy of the Padres for Saturday’s game with the Brewers and speakers such as Padres Manager Bruce Bochy and Channel 4 announcers Mark Grant and Matt Vasgersian.
For the past four weeks, Sanchez’s class has been learning the standard math curriculum in an innovative new way. Fantasy Baseball developed by former math teacher Tim Scheidt is a simulated baseball game through which students gain a better understanding of advanced mathematical concepts using this hands-on interactive approach. It attempts to make learning fun.
“It comes alive for them because it’s not just a matter of doing math calculations on blank paper,” Sanchez explained. “It keeps the kids involved by using real world player stats. And it gets them performing mathematical calculations using those player stats. They gain an understanding of what ratios are, how to convert them into a decimals and percentages and finally how to turn them into circle graphs. I love it,”
Sanchez added. She is not the only one. Chula Vista Middle School teacher, Mike Clay said Fantasy Baseball was, “probably the most motivating unit that I have ever taught to my kids.”
Francisco Nieblas, one of the students accompanying Sanchez from Monroe Clark Middle School was one of the tournament winners. In recognition of his victory, he was presented with a handsomely engraved medal courtesy of Kings Trophy and Engraving and a box of baseball trading cards from Upper Deck.
“There are winners and losers, but really everybody wins because we only have this tournament once a year and only a few kids get to come,” Nieblas said. “It’s fun to play against other people using math and baseball (skills) together.” Asked how he was chosen Nieblas explained, “The others were sad because they didn’t get to come, but I turned in everything early.” Sanchez hopes that by reaching students like Francisco early in their lives using innovative approaches like Fantasy Baseball that learning will become important to them and help them to overcome their disadvantages.