Published October 16, 2019
Improving the math skills of Western New York girls entering grades five through eight was the focus of this year’s Summer Math Program organized by Ji-Won Son, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction. This free, five-day camp program, held at Enterprise Charter School, was funded by the UB Gender Institute and the Cullen Foundation.
The purpose of the Summer Math Program is to help address racial and gender gaps in math achievement in Western New York schools. Nationally, children from families who are economically disadvantaged often perform below average in math skills. The gender gap refers to the underrepresentation of women employed in 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,” says Son. “In particular, during the summer, when school is out and non-school influences are dominant, gender gaps and achievement gaps among students of varying backgrounds grow largely.”
The camp emphasized 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. The students were introduced to mathematical concepts beyond what they would normally learn in their schools.
The first Summer Math Program, also funded by the Cullen Foundation, was held in 2017. Son interviewed the 150 girls who attended that program and found that overall the camp positively impacted the way students learned and viewed math.
“Many students stated that their feelings about mathematics and fractions have changed since coming to the program,” says Son.