Campus News

Summer program returns to boost students’ math skills

Students in the UB Summer Math Prorgam complete an activity session on July 20, 2017. The program was held at the Buffalo Academy of Science in downtown Buffalo.

Kids participate in the Summer Math Program in 2017. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published June 17, 2019

Portrait of GSE faculty member Ji-Won Son.
“It is at the middle school level that girls turn their attention away from mathematics and to other fields.”
Ji-Won Son, associate professor
Department of Learning and Instruction

Girls entering grades five to eight looking to improve their math skills, interact with some of the area’s most talented educators and add to their summer fun can enroll in UB’s free five-day summer camp designed to show students how math can be “exciting, beautiful and useful.”

The Summer Math Program, organized by Graduate School of Education faculty member Ji-Won Son, a nationally respected expert in math education for elementary and secondary students, will feature “fun and creative exercises” designed to help girls achieve in math and technology.

The program is designed to teach students mathematic literacy, a necessity to function in today’s society, according to Son. Despite this, 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, according to Son, 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,” says 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.”

The camp will help address these summer gap issues. Funded by the UB Gender Institute, the camp will be held Aug. 12–16 at Enterprise Charter School, 275 Oak St., 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. The students will be introduced to mathematical concepts beyond what they would normally learn in their schools.

The weeklong course will be taught by nine teachers, including Son, all accomplished educators with extensive experience in classrooms and in research.

“The fun and creative exercises are designed to demonstrate that math can be exciting, beautiful and useful,” Son says. “UB’s Summer Math Program can serve as an equalizer to accentuate existing achievement and gender disparities.”

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,” says 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.

• Because 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.

Registration information, details about the program and biographies of all instructors and the program director are available on the Summer Math Program website.

READER COMMENT

Congratulations to Professor Son. This kind of program is much needed and should be widely expanded. It honors this university that it supports this kind of contribution to the local community.

Gerald Rising