Entering into the world in an unassuming way, Benjamin Banneker was born on a farm outside of Baltimore, Maryland in the early 18th century. Banneker is often considered to be one of the first African American intellectuals. Without much access to educational options, Banneker was predominantly self-taught and he went on to become a naturalist, scientist, mathematician, astronomer, poet and author of almanacs. In addition, as a landowner, Banneker was also a farmer, a surveyor and a political activist.
One of the more well-known projects that Benjamin Banneker accomplished in his lifetime was to build a wooden clock. Since he didn’t have a clock of his own, he based his model on the workings of a pocket watch that he borrowed from a friend. He was only in his early 20s at the time, but the wooden clock Banneker made kept time for more than forty years!
Benjamin Banneker Week acts as an opportunity for people to celebrate the contributions of this important man in history while encouraging future generations to make the most out of their skills and gifts.
History of Benjamin Banneker Week
Benjamin Banneker Week is celebrated during ONE day within the week of November 9th each year and is typically conducted in grades Pre-K through 12th grade in schools and as well as with other groups and in places throughout the community. The focus of this day is on mathematics and science, and the celebration takes place annually during the week of Banneker’s birthday, which was on November 9, 1731.
This day is a national event that is sponsored by the Benjamin Banneker Association, which was started in 1986 and is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
Since Benjamin Banneker Week began several years ago the NCTM has hosted events in mathematics which coincide with the celebrations where several students and teachers from many different states have won awards and honors. The NCTM hopes to continue to expand the number of students on the list of participants and/or winners in the national competition, allowing the event to grow even more!
How to Celebrate Benjamin Banneker Week
This selected day that takes place during Benjamin Banneker Week has two common ideas for activities but the hosts certainly can have the autonomy to choose various avenues to celebrate! Kids and adults alike can have loads of fun paying homage to this day with some of these ideas:
Build a Clock Face
Since Banneker is well known for constructing a clock, students are encouraged to get creative by making their own clock face. This can be done by using mathematics to create the numbers 1–12 in a special or unique way that offers a different take or new style. Whether drawing, painting, building it with clay or using another medium, Benjamin Banneker Week is an ideal time for kids and adults to dream and think differently to create something special!
Create a Mathematical Poem
Instead of just writing about mathematics in a boring way, Benjamin Banneker had a unique style: he wrote math poetry! Check out his famous writings using a quick online search, and then encourage students to get creative by writing their own mathematical poems similar to that of Banneker’s famous historic writings. Whether using rhythms and rhymes like the original poet did, or building into a more modern style of poetry, this is a fun time to show off that mathematical knowledge with a flair.
Host a Benjamin Banneker Week Event
Schools, libraries, community centers, scout troops, after school programs and so many others can get excited about celebrating Benjamin Banneker Week! Though the event is supposed to take place on one day, why stop there? This would be a great time to get the kids involved in all sorts of different activities that feature Banneker as well as other African American role models.
Those who need a bit of inspiration can find online resources for the day, including a toolbox of activities and lesson plans on the Benjamin Banneker Day website. Find all sorts of free downloadable items like instructions for activities as well as a word search and much more!