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Math Corps Consortium Awarded Nearly $3 Million from National Science Foundation

Multi-university partnership, including CSU, seeks to enhance mathematics enthusiasm and learning

Math Corps

The National Science Foundation has awarded a nearly $3 million grant to Math Corps, a multi-university partnership designed to enhance mentorship, enthusiasm and understanding of mathematics concepts. The grant will be used to develop better analysis methods to identify the nature, extent and reasons for Math Corps' success with youth learning in urban settings. Originated in Detroit, Math Corps has expanded to multiple cities across the country including Cleveland; Utica, New York; and Philadelphia.

Cleveland State University directs Math Corps Cleveland, and currently serves over 150 junior high, high school and college students annually through a four-week, intensive summer camp that includes classroom instruction and project-based-learning, while introducing participants to 3D printing, game theory, chess, perspective drawing, and robotics, among other activities. The program seeks to create a self-perpetuating corps of students from middle school through college, who excel academically, hold values that breed success in general, and who, through strong mentoring relationships pass their knowledge and their values on to younger students, who in turn do the same.

“Math Corps’ central idea is that math can be fun, and we allow our students to investigate and discover all the joys of the discipline while instilling a willingness to learn more,” says Carol Phillips-Bey, associate professor of mathematics at CSU and director of Math Corps Cleveland. “At the same time we seek to create mentors who can carry the enthusiasm for math they learn to other students across the educational spectrum.”

Math Corps was originally developed over two decades ago by a team at Wayne State University with the goal of creating a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program that could bring middle and high school students from urban centers together, with college students, to learn mathematics from each other, as well as to interact with professional mathematicians in a university setting. Today, the program serves thousands of students annually and is considered a national model for STEM learning, earning the 2016 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award sponsored by the National Summer Learning Association. Graduates of Math Corps Cleveland, which was spun off in 2012 from Math Corps Detroit, have gone on to study at some of the leading universities in the U.S., including Case Western Reserve University, Northeastern University and the College of Wooster.

“Through the generous support of the National Science Foundation, we hope to deepen our understanding of why the program has been so successful and how it can be replicated by other universities and community development organizations to enhance mathematics learning, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas,” Phillips-Bey adds.