Seventy-five C.C. Pinckney Elementary School students showed up to put their math skills to the test during the fifth annual Math Night at the Commissary held Jan. 29.

Participants completed a packet of shopping-related math questions, searching the aisles for solutions.

Five lucky winners walked away with gift cards, complements of the school's parent-teacher organization.

Col. Stephen Elder, Fort Jackson garrison commander, attended the event with his wife. He called it a "great opportunity for engagement both with students and our schools."

"(It's a) fun event for the kids to come to and get a practical exercise to put their education to use," said Capt. Aaron Rider, commander of the 17th Military Police Detachment, one of the Math Night organizational partners.

"We're having fun and learning -- math with the food is fun," said Megan Streagle, daughter of Christin and 1st Sgt. Philip Streagle.

She was one of numerous satisfied Math Night participants.

Jackson Becker, second grade, and Eliza Becker, pre-kindergarten, "had the very best night," said their mom, Allyson Becker.

The event was geared toward second through sixth grade students, but Allyson brought all three of her kids -- Jackson, Eliza and Maddox -- since her husband, Staff Sgt Donald Becker, was on drill sergeant duty.

"My daughter actually told me it was the best night of her life," Allyson said. "It was a great experience for them. They had a fantastic time."

She said Jackson can't wait for next year; he was the one who encouraged them to go.
"He just loves math in general," Allyson said.

Jackson didn't get to finish the packet since they arrived late, and he was "very upset" that he had to turn it in.

Allyson said he enjoyed having a "hands-on" shopping experience, since she doesn't normally allow her kids to touch anything at the grocery store.

He requested another packet of questions so he could finish it during future shopping trips.
Jackson was interested in learning how to find the best deals and get a better grasp on the nutritional content of foods, Allyson said.

Making math relevant in that way is one aim of the event, said Kerrie Ammons, C.C. Pinckney speech pathologist.

Increasing test scores was the name of the game when Math Night was launched five years ago, she explained, calling it an "out-of-the-box" way to encourage kids to use their math knowledge outside of the classroom.

The goal is to help kids understand that they "need to have those (math) skills … as (they) grow into adulthood," said Amy Watford, C.C. Pinckney's special education teacher and a member of the school's Culture and Climate Committee that organized the event.

The Commissary setting builds that appreciation of math, and it's common ground, because "all students go to the grocery store," and most hear their parents discuss budgeting and saving money, Ammons said.

Questions in the packet focused in on those topics, and some are student-generated.

"(Students) like seeing their friends' names in there," and they enjoy the creative process of forming their own math problems, Ammons said.

"You have to have a deeper understanding of the skill" to write a question rather than just respond to it, Watford said.

Editor's Note: Nicholas Salcido contributed to this article.