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Making it all add up: Ashland grad teaches new way to learn math
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When Runninghorse Livingston graduated from Ashland High School in 1994, he thought he had had a good grasp of mathematics.

But when he got to college and began pursuit of an engineering degree, he realized his math education didn’t add up.

“I failed my first calculus class out of high school,” he said. “I did so poorly it made me question my choice of major.”

The problem was that he didn’t understand how to apply the he had learned in school.

“Part of that was because math learned in Ashland was all procedural and conceptual. I knew the theory, but I didn’t know how to use it in real life,” he said.

That’s a real problem for many students — which is what led Livingston to create Mathematize, a method of math thinking that he’s teaching to schools across country.

Over the past week, Livingston worked with Ashland School District administrators on incorporating his math thinking at all grade levels.


It’s a very different approach to learning then Director of Student Learning Katie Matthias was taught.

“It was, ‘Here’s the equation, plug in the numbers and here you go,’” she said. “So we knew the procedure, but we didn’t understand the ‘why.’”

And the “why” is critical to long-term learning and applying math in real life, Livingston said. So, for example, rather than having students remember formulas and procedures, Livingston is showing teachers how to those theories to something more relatable, like sports.


“In Major League Baseball, if the average player has one more hit a week, he will hit a .300 average, versus like .250,” said High School Principal Brain Trettin.

Turning a math lesson into a science experiment of sorts is another concept teachers have been trying out. In one algebra class, students recently took to the gym to see if their shoe size can make them run faster, jump higher or farther and so on as part of a lesson that attempts to simplify linear regression — an approach for modeling the relationship between a scalar response and one or more explanatory variables.

Using more images instead of just numbers can also help students who are more visual learners, Matthias said.


“(Livingston) is encouraging them to draw their mathematical thinking using diagrams and pictures,” she said.

This can be applied, for example, by asking how many fingers are on four hands. In a video on Mathematize’s website, a teacher helps the students answer the question by drawing each hand and counting along with them.

Teaching in this manner allows students see the relevance of what they are learning and can encourage them to pursue careers that involve math, Livingston said.

“There is a disconnection between math we learned in school and math we use in everyday life and it can hold us back from what we want to do,” he said.

Learning this way also helps students become better problem solvers and critical thinkers; two skills Livingston said are typically lost among younger students.

“When we teach math, it’s a small portion of the day when we ask students to think critically. But when we fill this time by trying to get them to memorize procedures and random facts, we’re robbing them of this experience. You also learn math mostly individually. But when you go to work, you’re asked to work collaboratively, think critically and communicate ideas with coworkers,” he said. “These skills will serve them better in life in whatever profession.”

The district’s plan is to fully integrate Mathematize by the start of next school year, Matthias said.

Although it’s still early, Matthias said students have been very receptive.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “The lessons have been quite engaging.”

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Washburn to vote on controversial camping plan

A controversial proposal to create a $500,000 RV park along Washburn’s waterfront will go to a vote Monday after 80% of residents polled said they oppose the plan.

“This is an outstanding amenity for the city of Washburn. It was originally envisioned as a natural trail, to provide a quiet retreat from the noise of humanity,” Washburn resident Roth Edwards said of the waterfront area in which the campground would be built. “I have yet to meet a single person who favors RV and-or yurt development on that particular two acres.”

Washburn City Council members will decide the future of the parcel of city-owned Lake Superior land east of the Thompson’s West End Park boat launch. The concept advanced by city officials calls for construction of seven RV sites at an estimated cost of about $553,000.

The city over the summer conducted a pair of on-site public information sessions, at which surveys were distributed. Comments at those sessions and in the surveys showed that most of the 67 respondents oppose the RV project in what has become known as the open field expansion proposal.

An alternative that calls for the development of yurts, semi-permanent tents that can be used summer and winter, has gained more approval among some residents.


Others, such as Edwards, oppose even yurts on the meadow-like open field.

“I am not opposed to RVs per se, in an area just to the west, even within a stone’s throw we could use the overflow area. I am not objecting to developing the overflow area,” he said.

The overflow area is located across Holman Lake View Road from the West End Park boat launch and now is used for overflow camping space. Under plans to be considered by the City Council, it would be developed into five RV sites and five camping sites with water, power and sanitary hookups as well as restroom and shower facilities. That part of the project has been estimated to cost about $440,892.

Edwards maintained that development should not take place on the open field location, saying that Washburn voters rejected a proposal to build condominiums there in 2004 by nearly a 6-1 margin. He said additional RV space could also be created in parts of West End and Memorial Parks.

Roth said those who supported keeping the area open would gather on Nov. 14 for the City Council session.

“The city is going to ask the question of whether the great majority of us should not continue to breathe the same free and spacious air and savor that same blue horizon as a buttressed few who are pushing for this RV development,” he said.

The survey showed that many who were not in favor of developing the open field for RVs do favor adding up to four yurts at an estimated cost of about $26,000 each.

City Council member Thomas Neimes said he believes yurts are better suited for the open field than additional RV sites. He noted that the open field location was included in the 2015 parks plan for uses like camping and yurts.

“I had said that I was in favor of putting in classy motor home sites there, but if yurts will bring in more revenue because they will be used year-round, well, I want to see what the net revenue is going to be,” he said.

Neimes said his main concern is development of the overflow area.

“I’m fine with that design, and there is a bathroom up there, because we can’t do any park expansion without a bathroom,” he said.

In the past he has been opposed to development on the lakefront, but he now doesn’t believe that yurts would cause any harm to the area.

“The yurts are not going to take away the view,” he said.

But that doesn’t address his primary concern: Turning the open field area into something that benefits residents.

“All that green space has not brought any young professionals here or generated any revenue,” he said.


Washburn Recreation Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Maziasz said the surveys say “loud and clear” that residents want the city to follow the 2015 recreation plan.

“There was more support for keeping RV camping near current RV camping, which is the overflow area versus developing the open field,” she said.

Since then there has been more effort to develop a yurt alternative for the open field.

“That is more in line with the plan,” she said.

Maziasz said yurts at Mount Ashwabay and at a county site have been operated successfully

“The concept of the yurts, if you are looking at a revenue source, is a good one,” she said. “They are popular now. Families come up and they don’t have to hike their kids in that far, and it’s an experience where they can still enjoy the town or a Big Top event or the Book Across the Bay, whatever they come up here for, and it’s a unique experience for lodging.”

The council meeting is set for 4 p.m. Monday Nov. 14, at Washburn City Hall.

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New South Shore brew goes hyper-local
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South Shore Brewery Brewmaster Bo Bélanger is a strong believer in producing locally originated brews.

In the past he has backed projects to produce barley malt and hops, the fundamental ingredients that become beer.

For a variety of reasons, experiments producing hops locally didn’t quite pan out, but the effort to produce an heirloom barley variety showed great promise. Then came a 500-year flood that washed out a railroad bridge in Ashland County. Without cheap rail transportation to send the harvested grain downstate to be malted — germinated and then dried to stop it from growing — the project didn’t work economically.

But that hasn’t stopped Bélanger in his quest to produce Wisconsin beer with Wisconsin ingredients. On Nov. 15, the South Shore Brewery will release its newest beer, Double Hop Co-Op Imperial India Pale Ale.

Using barley malted in Wisconsin, honey from the Mason area and four Wisconsin-grown hop varieties, Bélanger has created what he called one of the most unusual beers in the 27-year history of the brewery.

“It embodies the amazing quality our local hop farmers put into their products,” he said. “We have made an investment in being local. We want to say something about where we live in every glass of beer we make. It is still an ongoing project.”

Belanger said the effort to use local products has made South Shore a better brewery. He has been impressed by the investment Fine Bine Hop Farm of Rosholt and Ag Dynamics Hop Farm of Arkansaw near Eau Claire have made; both their hops are in the new double IPA.

“These hop farms have tens of thousands of dollars invested in their crops,” he said. “They have the same kind of passion that I have in making beer.”

Bélanger said he wants to help establish a local agricultural economy.

“We made an investment, and maybe a trend. So now not only am I the local brewery down the street, but actually the local brewery down the street that is helping the local farmer, that is helping make the wheels go round,” he said.

Wisconsin Hops and Barley Cooperative Manager Jon Reynolds said his co-op is helping revive what was once a major Badger state crop. In the 19th century, Wisconsin led the nation in producing hops before the industry moved west into Washington and Oregon. The return of local craft brewers and improved agricultural techniques offered an opportunity for hops to return to Wisconsin as a profitable crop.


The big benefit for Bay-Area beer aficionados is a beverage that combines Wisconsin grown Cascade, Cashmere, Triumph and Nugget hops with two-row pale malt and just enough caramel malt to produce a beer with a beautiful coppery hue. The use of Bayfield County honey means the beer has 8% alcohol, as would be expected from an imperial India pale ale. Bélanger described Double Hop Co-Op as providing a “juicy, passionfruit nose with some notes of tropical fruit and a subtle dankness in the back end, along with delectable citrus/grapefruit flavors coming in strong behind that.”

Reynolds said the growing craft brewing industry and brewers like South Shore can help shape the future of the industry.

Randy and Peggy Umess of Fine Bine Farms in Rosholt harvest hops used in the South Shore’s new brew. (Photo contributed by WHBC and Fine Bine Farms)

“It’s a great opportunity for brewers to join an organization like Wisconsin Hops and Barley Cooperative to bring together the growers and brewers into one room and figure out how to do it collaboratively,” he said. “The key to local hops and barley growing is to get more people involved, to get some of the farmers to take a risk in putting them into the ground.”

Bélanger admitted that there were some risks in bringing a new beer into the market, but he’s eager for the public to taste it and weigh in on Nov. 15. The beer will be available at the South Shore Brewery and Taproom in Washburn and at the Deep Water Grille in Ashland. It will also be available at beer outlets in Bayfield, Ashland and Douglas counties.

Fresh hops Ag Dynamics Farm in Arkansaw are also used in the new beer. (Photo contributed by WHBC and Ag Dynamics)

“This is an experimental beer when all is said and done, so we are able to do a very limited run at our small brewery,” he said. “There are a lot of moving parts in bringing a new beer into the market. We are out getting pre-orders right now.”

Bélanger said even the beer’s label will be local, crafted by Becky Wygonik of Bizy Does It in Ashland. With depictions of hop vines growing, it tells the story of South Shore’s involvement with the Wisconsin Hops and Barley Co-op.

“It’s crazy cool,” Bélanger said.


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