When it comes to math, nurturing those who excel is just as important as supporting students who struggle.
According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 40 percent of fourth graders and 33 percent of eighth graders perform at or above the "proficient" level in mathematics. DC Math Circle, a new enrichment program organized by professors and students in AU's College of Arts and Sciences, gives youngsters with a knack for numbers the extra attention they might not receive in their classrooms—and the opportunity to connect with their math-minded peers.
"I have the sense that they might not have, in their home institutions, fellow students who they can socialize with in this way. This gives them a space where they can do that," Professor Kenneth Ward says. "We had a student who said to her parent after one of our sessions that she could feel her brain growing."
Formula for success
Now in its second semester, the program is aimed at Washington-area kids between the fifth and eighth grades. Weekly sessions, held at the new Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building on East Campus, are capped at 40 students, with more on the online waitlist.
Each 75-minute session features activities like the "four numbers game" or "connect the dots to win"—elementary-sounding exercises that are anything but. "Some of the stuff that we do is really college-level math, but in a way that they can understand," Professor Jaime Miller says.
According to Miller, the kids—about half of whom are girls—lap up lessons on perfect squares, integer sequences, and Penrose tiling (go ahead and Google it—we had to). "Some of [them] know a lot. They just want to keep going and going. They've already been at school all day and they still have the energy at the end of the session to say, 'Oh man, we're done?'"
DC Math Circle is free, although a $100 donation is suggested to help with administrative costs. The program is staffed mostly by professors from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and volunteers like Mercy Griffith, CAS/BS-BA '19, an aspiring math teacher.
"It's awesome to see so many kids in one place—each with their own interests and backgrounds—connected by a love for math," Griffith says.