Kingwood High School Principal, Dr. Michael Nasra
For as long as I can remember, I was extremely passionate about mathematics. Year after year, summer after summer, I would find opportunities for myself to be challenged and to learn how to apply math in ways that can be utilized in the real world. This passion has continued to burn brightly within me and I have utilized this in an attempt to convey that same love and dedication I have to those younger than me in our community to increase mathematical literacy here. I began to volunteer my time to help out a local math clubs and work as a math tutor.
However, I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford fancy summer programs or take supplementary classes with their rising costs. Many families are driven away by the shocking costs of these programs and as a result, many kids don’t have an outlet where they can delve deeper into their interests.
I decided to create Kingwood Math Camp, a free 5-day camp for middle school students in Kingwood/Humble ISD. The first pilot run lasted during February break from February 3rd, 2020 to February 7th, 2020. Around 45 middle school students from across 3 middle schools were registered and just a little under 50% of those students were female.
Each day was divided in a way to ensure kids wouldn’t get bored and to maximize the learning process. We started off each day with 30-45 minutes of note-taking which included a variety of practice problems followed by a quick 5 minute break. After taking notes, an interactive activity simulating the topics taught was put in place so that students could understand what was taught in a “hands-on” way. This activity was followed by a mini team competition that lasted throughout camp. The point system for the competition was based on whether or not the students in their teams could explain how they reached the correct answer, rather than awarding them with points based on speed. After this, the students would take another break (10 minutes) and then move onto their poster project. The poster was a project the students worked on throughout the week to present to their parents on the last day of camp. The students had to explain a topic that was taught each day and come up with an original, real-life scenario to which the topics could be applied to.
The big message from the camp that I hope students were able to take away from was that math is not about how quickly you can reach the right answer or what the right answer is. The most important aspect of math is understanding HOW the answer is reached, WHY the answer is what it is, and how many other ways can you reach the same answer.
Mathematical literacy, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the ability to problem-solve, reason, and analyze information. This skill is incredibly important, especially in today’s circumstances. Many students, fueled by the intense competitiveness of their schools, memorize equations and the material being taught to them without understanding why. A question that is commonly asked is “when will we ever use this in our lives?” This is a genuine question that goes unanswered. Not many classrooms are making sure students know how these equations and formulas translate into the real world and what situations they apply to. It is crucial that math educators are emphasizing the process more than the answer. By understanding how math is applied outside of the classroom and why math works the way it does, students will develop skills that last beyond their math classes and that they can utilize throughout their lives.