When Kent's Pine Tree Elementary School teacher, Jeromie Heath, told his 4th/5th grade class that there was only one more algebra problem left for the day, they groaned with disappointment. When does that ever happen? The kids in Mr. Heath's class love to do math. And science. And reading. It's not your typical classroom.
On Thursday, Mr. Heath was dressed in head to toe green, his torso covered by a muscled The Hulk costume, and the classroom was set up to look like a mad scientist's lab.
"We have black lights, things that glow, we have animated things, we have snakes and spiders and bats everywhere and giant cockroaches."
The kids sign, chant and enthusiastically learn.
"Every single month he changes themes," says student Dasha Kalchik. "The next theme is going to be Dr Seuss. He always decorates this room and it makes it really awesome because it makes you want to go to school everyday and have fun."
Thursday was Superhero 3D Math day. The kids put on their 3D glasses and pull out glow-in-the-dark highlighter pens to write math equations on the paper covered tables.
"Notice that when they write on the tables, it glows!" says Mr. Heath. "I realized that kids were not liking multiplication and long division. If you make it glow, they love it! When I put the answer up, if they get the answer right, they get to see the 3D image. That encourages them to want to see it."
The images he shows are of superheroes, and the kids ooh and ahh, and shout "Awesome!" when they watch them morph into 3D. Mr. Heath spends two hours a day, and many many weekends making 3D videos and writing math songs. He spent $2,000 last year on supplies. I asked him what makes it all worth it.
"It's a lot like buying people a gift. It's the reaction on their face when you give it to them. It's the, 'Wow! Oh, cool!' Sometimes they even say, 'Thank you' which is a little weird when you give them math questions and they say thank you. But that's why I do it, it's for the smiles."
The kids are definitely smiling.
"I want to come everyday. It's so fun," Dasha says.
"He has a lot of themes and he's very caring about us," says Elijah Presto.
"The things pop out at you in 3D and makes you want to know how to learn it so you can see the pictures," says 5th grader Molly Burke.
"Almost every year the state test scores in my room double," Mr. Heath says. "Last year they came in with a 50 percent passing for math for 4th grade. After a year's worth they went up to 84 percent passing. The same is true for reading. My science scores for the past three years have gone from 24 percent to 78 percent."
I noted that the kids seem very well-behaved and obedient.
"They are because they're really entertained. In this age of video games and multi-tasking and four Internet windows up at the same time, you have to match it. If you don't, you're going to lose their interest. I love this job, I mean, I really love this job. I'm part entertainer, part comedian, part musician. I have to be a tech specialist. I like presenting and entertaining and spending time with the children. The more you put into them, the more you get out of them."
Mr. Heath wants to share his lessons with other teachers. Click here to find all of his materials.