I periodically send update e-mails to our supporters. Here’s the latest:
Dear friends of SPMPS,
What happens when almost 40 middle school students from low-income backgrounds get to learn mathematics topics like Logic, Number Theory, and Combinatorics? Amazing, amazing things.
In Group Theory, instructor Ben-Blum Smith invented a dance. As Ben played on his guitar, the students responded to calls like “East-West Switch”, “LAX to JFK”, and “Jam in Place” to learn about symmetry groups. In Proofs, Shelley taught her students about the pigeon hole principle and how to phrase a formal mathematical proof. In Numbers, Sets, and Mappings, Marcus helped students prove that the quantity of natural numbers is the same as the quantity of even natural numbers, but that the real numbers are a higher order of infinity. In Circuit Design, Sage helped her students construct circuits to add two numbers in binary. In Digital Communications, Taylor’s students designed their own methods of sending images across a room using nothing but sound.
Thirty-nine students came to the program and got their first entry point to advanced mathematics. Of course, the summer is just the launching-off point: over the coming year we will be connecting students with selective high schools and summer programs, the New York Math Circle, math contests of all kinds, and other opportunities that will open a new world up to them.
We’re still crunching the data, but here are a few outcomes that we’re already seeing:
- Students took the AMC-8, a contest given to advanced students nationwide. By the end of the program, the average of our students’ nationwide rankings grew by 21 percentile points! Six of our students, exposed to serious mathematical study for the first time, saw their scores rise by 40 percentile points or more.
- Students reported huge changes in their dispositions towards mathematics and challenges. 97% agreed that the program “showed me that I can learn more than I thought I could”, and 82% strongly agreed. Students also learned the importance of hard work (not just natural brilliance) and of frustration and challenges: every student agreed that “Working can improve one’s ability in mathematics”, and 95% agreed that “time used to investigate why a solution to a math problem works is time well spent”.
- Students raved about the program in their summer evaluations. “A life-changing thing,” wrote Edson. Math is “the best subject in the world” wrote Faith, who also said that she learned to “stop being shy”. “I find math as a more common language than the language I speak”, said Seth. Tiffany summed up something that many students said: “I want from liking math to loving it.”
Next year, SPMPS is looking to grow to a second campus. We’ll be able to serve twice as many NYC-area students. This expansion is possible thanks to a three-year grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation which expires after next summer. We’re fundraising now to raise the difference to make the second site possible next year, and also to help us transition smoothly as this grant concludes. If you are able to contribute or you can make an introduction to someone who might be able to, please do let me know! We are working to raise an additional $150,000 over the next twelve months to help support summer 2014 and summer 2015.
There are two other ways you can help us out:
- We’re seeking meeting space in NYC on evenings and weekends. This year, we will be greatly increasing our year-round programming to help students enter future programs for advanced study, and space costs may become an issue. If you have access to free or low-cost space, please get in touch.
- We are also looking for someone to help redesign our website to match our growing profile. Please drop me a line with any connections!
Finally, you might enjoy this Bard news article about this summer:
Thank you so much for all your help and support with the program! Until next time,
There are lots of exciting things in the coming year with much stronger year-round programming and connections to other mathematical offerings. (What this post doesn’t tell you, for example, is that we’ve seen an explosion in SPMPS alumni registering for the NY Math Circle.) This is a very exciting time for SPMPS!