Education feature: Camp aims to prepare students for seventh-grade math

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Marshall math teacher Mary Ann Collings, above right, tutors math students Wednesday at the middle school. Collings said the hands-on lessons she uses often will be a staple at Marshall Kitten Math Camp.

Liliana Castillo

Marshall Middle School seventh grade math teachers have created a summer math camp to better prepare new students for seventh-grade math.

Called Kitten Math Camp, in honor of the school’s mascot, the camp will last a month, from June 6 to July 1. Marshall faculty began looking at their incoming seventh-graders and realized they were lacking some skills in math.

Instructional Coach Mandy Carpenter wrote the grant. She said data gathered from 2010-2011 seventh-graders showed that only 37 percent were proficient in math at the beginning of seventh grade.

“This created a significant struggle for our seventh-grade math teachers on day one of the school year,” she said. “So we decided to come up with a plan that was more proactive.”

Carpenter said 63 percent of students have to be proficient in math for the school to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Marshall Math Department Head Mary Ann Collings and Carpenter said some of the issues stem from the fact that students from the middle school’s eight feeder schools are taught things in a slightly differently way or with different vocabulary.

“Some teachers use different words for some things or taught things in a different order than the seventh-grade teacher,” Carpenter said.

Collings said being on the same page with vocabulary is a huge help.

Carpenter said the camp will focus on real-world applications of math and hands-on learning.

“Our hope is that by introducing the seventh-grade math curriculum early to our students that typically struggle with math, that they will not only gain confidence in math, but be able to be the leaders in the fall once the curriculum is introduced again during the regular school year,” Carpenter said.

She said this process is called front loading and often teachers spend a large amount of time back-tracking and filling in the gaps so much that the class falls behind.

Students will rotate through three modules; data and probability, numbers and operations and algebra and problem solving.

“The camp will let them see that math can be fun. It’s not going to be what they’re used to,” Collings said. “It connects the abstract concept with the application when you can move it around.”

Carpenter said students will be nominated through their sixth-grade teachers and will take a placement exam. Carpenter said the camp will be made up of between 70 and 80 students.

The camp is made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Clovis Municipal Schools Education Foundation.

The grant paid for three teachers’ time and supplies. Collings will be one of three.

“I think it’s going to help,” Collings said about the camp. “Kids lose so much over the summer. This will help with the transition. They’ll know us. They’ll know the building and they’ll have friends.”

The Education Foundation distributed about $25,000 worth of grants to teachers across the district in November. Executive Director Jan Cox said the foundation will award more grants in October.

“The grant committed enjoyed the fact that they are going to be identifying sixth-grade students coming into seventh grade with challenges in math skills,” Cox said.

Cox said the camp is proactive and the committee was impressed with that.

“The assumption is that elementary teachers have done their job,” she said. “But there are still children out there who might be struggling. This looks at students’ individual needs.”