Tuesday news ticker header.
Professor Ji-Won Son teaches female students as part of the Summer Math Program.

Published June 18, 2019

Summer math program addresses gender and achievement gaps

Fostering equitable math experiences for girls

Mathematical literacy is a necessity to be a functioning member of society. However, there are significant racial and gender gaps in math achievement in the United States. More than half of low socioeconomic status, Black and Hispanic students have demonstrated below average math skills, and women remain underrepresented in many STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

“It is at the middle school level that girls turn their attention away from mathematics and to other fields,” said Ji-Won Son, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction. “In particular, during the summer, when school was out and non-school influences were dominant, gender gaps and achievement gaps among students of varying backgrounds grew largely.”

To address these summer gap issues, Son is providing a free, five-day summer math program for girls in the Buffalo region who are entering grades 5 to 8. The camp, funded by the UB Gender Institute, will be held August 12–16 at Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo. The camp will emphasize hands-on, project-based and creative learning experiences, as well as personal attention, active learning and relationship building, with the goal to support and encourage interest in math by girls.

In summer 2017, Son offered the inaugural summer math program. At the conclusion of the program, Son conducted interviews with the 150 girls that attended to explore what and how they learned, and what they liked and disliked about the program. Overall, Son found that the program positively impacted the way students learned and viewed math. “Across the board, the girls I talked to really enjoyed all the activities and learning through doing,” said Son. “Many students stated that their feelings about mathematics and fractions have changed since coming to the program.”

Son is preparing a research report and a book, which she hopes will become a resource for educators and researchers who are interested in finding better ways to foster equitable math experiences for all students. Based on her research, Sun offers educational and practical suggestions for practitioners and parents, including:

  • teachers need to provide hands-on, project-based learning experiences where students learn to investigate ideas, and need to engage in activities during the academic year to help students understand why math computations work and when to use each operation
  • since one-size-fits-all methods are not working for all students, teachers need to give personal attention and emphasize relationship building to create equitable math practices for girls
  • parents need to consider how to provide instructional continuity during the summer, which will prevent summer learning loss.

Tuesday News Briefs feature the stories of the Graduate School of Education faculty, students and alumni who are engaged in their communities and making an impact through their hard work, dedication and research initiatives. If you have a story to share, please email us with the details for consideration as a future news feature.