Zombie Math planned for students at North Bullitt High next fall

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 A successful funding proposal plus a partnership equals a greater understanding of linear programming and Algebra II.

That is what North Bullitt High School math teacher Emir Dizdarevic plans with the implementation of a new program called Zombie Math.

“Students often have trouble understanding the real world applications of Algebra II, particularly linear programming,” he said. “My plan is to conduct a six session residency with the help of Walden Theatre teaching artists to help my students create a play about how math could save the world.”

The residency began May 5 and be completed May 14. Emir Dizdarevic is working in collaboration with fellow NBHS Algebra II teacher Gelena Ballard.

Since ‘zombies’ have become such a pop-culture phenomenon (especially among ages 15-50), adding that single word has vaulted the subject to a higher level of interest.

The collaboration is supported by a $570 grant from the Bullitt County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education. This is half of what is needed to fund the program. The remainder will be raised through Power2Give crowd sourcing.

Walden Theatre is volunteering the required planning time. Zombie Math will serve approximately 60 Algebra II juniors along with a few seniors and sophomores.

“This is a pilot program that my wife, Hallie, and I are developing,” Emir Dizdarevic said. “She is an Artistic/Development Associate in the Outreach Department at Walden Theatre. They do programs for all grade levels, and many subjects.”

Walden Theatre, based in Louisville, was founded in 1976, and their Outreach Education Department has been a presence in the Louisville community for nineteen years. Their programs serve more than 80 schools and community sites per year, reaching more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. Walden’s specialty is using a combination of class work and performances that use theatre’s proven power to teach any subject.

“North Bullitt is the first school that will be participating in our Zombie Math program,” Hallie Dizdarevic said. “It is a pilot but we are very much hoping to offer it to the rest of the community in the coming school year.”

“The Zombie idea just spontaneously came to us one day as we were thinking about connecting math methods to real world applications, especially if we did not have the benefits of the modern computing technologies, hence the Zombie apocalypse. We thought that it would make it engaging for the students,” Emir Dizdarevic added.

Take a moment and imagine utter societal shutdown. No electronics, communication, fuel, food, shelter, etc. For those accustomed with every day access to such elements, the ability to adapt suddenly becomes survival.

“What if there was a world where technology suddenly failed and the very survival of people depended on successfully solving just these types of problems using pen and paper alone?” Emir Dizdarevic asked.

The desired outcome of Zombie Math is to increase students’ enthusiasm about learning math and improve student performance on End Of Course exams.

“Our goal is to improve students analytical and problem solving skills with emphasis on solving real world application problems of optimization with linear programming methods,” he said.

Students will be assessed with a constructed response problem prior and post program implementation. The pre and post assessments will differ in specific real world situations but be similar in difficulty level and required content knowledge.

In addition, students will be asked to identify the concepts that they see in their classmates’ scenes using an audience member worksheet. This will serve as a review before testing and evaluate whether or not participants have met the goal of the residency, which is to clearly define a concept within the circumstances of a fictional environment.

“The role that Walden Theatre teaching artists will play in the residency will be to first help students become comfortable with performing; introducing them to the elements of drama using theatre exercises that will focus on pantomime, improvisation, and non-verbal communication, all skills that they will use in their scenes,” Hallie Dizdarevic explained. “In the next phase of the residency, we will help students come up with creative, zombie-themed, scenarios in which they can showcase their knowledge of the Algebra II content. Then, we will direct the scenes and help the classes to put them together so that, combined, they will tell the full story of how math saves the world from a zombie apocalypse.”

“The project will improve the school moral and engagement while enhancing Bullitt County’s reputation as a leader in project based learning,” Emir Dizdarevic said. “The activity is aligned with several requirements for program review of the school.”

Bullitt County Public Schools has over 13,200 students in grades kindergarten through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 850 and a classified staff of over 850 working to make the district the leader in educational excellence.