22+ years and 80+ shows: ‘Homemade Math’ popular with viewers
“Homemade Math,” a long-running FCPS-ETV program, provides families with handy resources to enhance a student’s enjoyment and achievement in math. Since 1997, viewers have soaked up the information and sometimes call central office to ask when the next episode will air. “We have a fan base – it’s amazing!” said Natalee Feese, a math specialist in Fayette County Public Schools. “We need parents to support their children, and we want their partnership. We try to give families ideas about fun, math-related activities to do at home. Our goal is for parents to encourage and promote math and for all kids to love math.”
While “Homemade Math” has evolved over the past 22 years, a few constants remain, including host Judi Conrad, a steadfast volunteer in FCPS for decades. She also hosted the show “Parents in Action” for some 20 years until 2013, and the math episodes with Feese always drew strong positive feedback. Then-ETV coordinator Dick Simpson suggested a spinoff to air quarterly, and “Homemade Math” was born. “The vision was Judi’s. It was her experience in television and my passion for mathematics, and that’s how we became a team,” Feese recalled. The early years of “Homemade Math” also featured colleague Bev Dean, who subsequently left to teach at the University of Kentucky.
Conrad still consults with families to cull new ideas. “It’s always a nice collaboration,” she said. “We try to keep it fresh because there’s a whole new audience every year.” The show has explored Math in the Early Years, Math Around the Home, the latest in math curriculum, Math for the Transition Years (students entering kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade) and Summertime Math, to name a few. “We want to serve. With over 80 shows, we’ve talked about numerous topics,” Feese said.
Feese generates a rough outline for each half-hour program, and Conrad leads the Q&A format. “We never talk before the show because we want it to be informal and not rehearsed,” Feese explained. “It actually takes all four of us to create our TV show.”
The other two players are Linda Dawahare and Robert Lewis of the district’s Creative Media Productions, formerly known as Channel 13. The shows still broadcast on 13 with Windstream, but now on Channel 197 for Spectrum customers. Programs are also available through the FCPS YouTube channel. Dawahare has filmed “Homemade Math” since the beginning, and Lewis came aboard about 2½ years ago. Moving production out of the Main Street television studio and filming on location in various schools was his idea.
The Learning Center hosted this fall’s episode, which focuses on financial literacy. Lewis and Dawahare arrived several hours early to haul in two carloads of cameras and other equipment, arrange the furniture, and prepare lighting in the library. Feese and Conrad then followed up with materials to share with the audience. Feese’s legwork had included visits to Junior Achievement’s BizTown facility, local banks, the public library, three school libraries, and a Hamburg bookstore. “We appreciate local businesses that let us show products that I borrow and return,” said Feese, who set out money-related games and books for all age groups.
After the production day, Lewis finishes each episode in the office – adding background music, a snappy intro, taglines, and credits. He then schedules the show into the FCPS-ETV rotation for about three months of airtime and uploads it to YouTube. Families and students can expect the annual program on ACT prep this winter and a new one on math in gaming for the 2020 summer episode.
“I hope what they’re taking away is how integral math is to everything else we do. That’s the most important thing – how relevant math is in our daily lives,” Conrad said. “Also, math can be something interesting and fun. I hope they look at it as not ‘Aw, math’ but ‘Hey, math!’”
Our philosophy (with “Homemade Math”) is that parents can build a bridge between the math their children do in school and what they do at home. Mostly, have fun with the math and KNOW that everything they do to encourage and promote math DOES make a difference.