South Hosts Math Corps Camp for Middle School, High School Students
Posted on August 14, 2023
The University of South Alabama recently hosted its inaugural Math Corps Summer Camp, adding South to a list of only eight other colleges and universities across the U.S. to hold the program annually.
“The Math Corps summer program provides opportunities for students to realize they can accomplish great things with hard work and persistence,” said Dr. Joanna Furno, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and program organizer. “We use mathematics to show this to the students, aiming for them to leave with improved math skills and the confidence to pursue their future goals.”
Furno first became involved with Math Corps when she visited the University of Michigan in 2021.
The program, founded in 1992 at Wayne State University in Detroit, seeks to build impactful relationships between middle school students and local high school teaching assistants. The National Science Foundation helped fund the program.
At South, Math Corps aimed to help local rising seventh and eighth grade students overcome difficulties associated with math concepts. Students attended four weeks of courses led by the teaching assistants and South faculty. Tuition was free; the teaching assistants were paid.
“It was wonderful to witness the students from different middle schools working together to solve complex math problems,” said Melinda Williams, a mathematics instructional leader for Mobile County Public Schools. “It was inspiring to see the high school students peer-tutoring and collaborating with each other as well. Their dedication to learning and helping each other was truly impressive."
Katherine Graham, a rising high school senior at the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile and the winner of the program’s Most Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, got involved with Math Corps through her school’s topology course.
“I’ve really loved getting to know the kids,” said Graham, who wants to pursue applied mathematics in college and is considering the University of South Alabama. “They’re all really sweet, and they’re all super smart.”
Other students who attended Math Corps reflected positively on the experience as well. Kianna James-Blackman will enter the eighth grade this fall at Scarborough Model Middle School. She said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her math skills.
“COVID came out when I was in third grade,” James-Blackman said. “We weren't at school much, and then in the fifth grade, I was at home most of the time. During sixth grade, my sister and I kept getting sick a lot. So I would have to do work from home, and I didn’t actually get to go to class. Math Corps at South helped me get better with my times tables and division.”
Students can return to Math Corps Summer Camp year after year from seventh grade through high school.
“Learning mathematics and completing college are both things that many people think are difficult,” Furno said. “Math Corps provides early exposure to a college environment and the study skills necessary for students to succeed at South, whether they continue with mathematics, statistics or another passion.”
Mathematics and statistics lie at the foundation of modern technological society. Students who major in mathematics and statistics at South receive a broad liberal and mathematics education, combined with focused training in subfields, which may include analysis, approximation theory, representation theory, statistics or topology. Students can choose from concentrations in pure math, statistics, applied math and math education.
Majoring in mathematics and statistics can lead to many STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers other than mathematician or statistician. Examples include actuary, biostatistician, data scientist, financial analyst and secondary or postsecondary educator.
“This camp brings in students from the local community, predominantly from underrepresented institutions in Mobile County, to the University,” said Dr. Madhuri Mulekar, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “It provides information and new opportunities for students to excel in STEM. It also provides opportunities for faculty and students from South to work closely with middle school students to help them develop confidence in learning STEM and hopefully choose paths toward careers in those areas.”
To learn more about the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, visit SouthAlabama.edu/majorsandminors/math-stat.html.
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