We will never forget the time, when we walked to the Highland Cemetery in Dover Center, to participate in Cemetery Math. The day was not exactly freezing but it was cold; leaves started to fall as we walked. The whole fourth grade walked to the Highland Cemetery on October 29, 2013, with clipboards and math packets in there hands. Everyone was excited and nervous to begin our adventure in a cemetery!
We wondered who created Cemetery Math, so we asked Mrs. Haggett. She said it started about 20 years ago or more at the Caryl School. The fourth grade teachers, including Mrs. Haggett, came up with the idea. The fourth grade teachers thought that the cemetery could be a way to show kids math in everyday life, not only math in school. Cemetery Math uses all sorts of math problems. Like using estimation to predict how tall the tallest tree is. The packet students were handed also included problems from all operations including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, estimation and symmetry. For example, ”find a pair of symmetric grave stones”. Another was to subtract the day the person was born from the day that the person died to figure how old the person was. The Chickering family grave and Nathaniel Chickering’s grave were another challenge. The Chickerings were an important family to the town; they made many donations to the town, one from Nathaniel Chickering who in 1746 “bequeathed to the West Precinct of the Town of Dedham [Dover] the burying ground as it lyeth now within fence, to be for the use of the said precinct for a burying-place.”1
Cemetery math doesn’t just involve math, it also includes learning some of the history of Dover and observing autumn changes. If you saw something important you could write it down. For example, if you found a grave with a flag it might mean this person had been in a war or was a veteran. It was a fun way to apply some of our math skills and learn about an unusual place in our town. Who would believe there was math in a cemetery!
Reported Nicole and Derek
1 Bertschy, Harry. The History of The Highland Cemetery. Dover, MA, 1997.