What is the Math Corps?
The WSU Math Corps is a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program that brings middle and high school students from Detroit public schools together, with college students, to learn mathematics from each other, as well as to interact with professional mathematicians in a university setting. It is based on the dream of creating 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.
In a world where the dreams of children are so often unfulfilled or not even encouraged, and where the obstacles to success are so daunting, the Math Corps has, from the beginning, been about making a difference and changing lives. At its core, the Math Corps is about a very simple but unwavering belief—that all children have a unique and special greatness within them, and that through hard work and a commitment to excellence, and with the support of a caring community, this greatness can be realized.
The Math Corps Summer Camp, the centerpiece of the Math Corps, is a six-week program that currently serves a total of 400 students at two sites on Wayne State's campus. Each site serves 40 seventh-graders, 40 eighth-graders, 40 ninth-graders and 80 high school students. Twenty-five college students, most of whom were formerly "Math Corps kids" themselves, serve as instructors and mentors. The students are broken into teams, with each team having 10 middle school students, 5 high school students (TAs) and 1 college student (CI) at the head. Each day of the camp has a morning and an afternoon component. In the morning, the focus is entirely on the middle school kids. The CI's and TA's not only serve as teachers and role models, but in many instances, as essentially "big brothers" and "big sisters". In the afternoon, the middle school students participate in a variety of hands-on activities, while the high school students engage in two Mathematics courses of their own, at least one of which is an advanced course at the college level.
The middle school students receive a variety of instruction delivered by professors, K-12 teachers, college students, and high school students. The high school students spend their mornings as paid Teaching Assistants (TAs), serving as natural role models for the middle school students, and their afternoons in classes of their own. The students are organized into 8 teams, each consisting of 10 middle school students at the same grade level, one college student who serves as team leader, and 5 TAs who assist the team leader in providing instruction, tutoring, and mentoring for the middle school students.
The participating middle school students are a diverse group with respect to mathematical achievement, with grades in their most recent mathematics course ranging from A through D. They are selected for the program largely on the basis of a written essay. In reviewing applications, staff seeks indications of a serious desire to succeed in mathematics as well as evidence that the student is willing to work hard to achieve that success. Aligning with the Math Corps goal to make a real difference in people's lives, special attention is given to students who are considered to be 'at risk' or who would seemingly substantially benefit from this program. Several very high achieving students, whether 'at risk' or not, are always accepted into the program as a way of helping to promote a sense of prestige among the students and an environment that encourages and values academic success.
High School Bridge Program
The High School Bridge Program was added in 2001 as a half-day program for incoming 9th grade students and was expanded to a full-day program in 2002. The Bridge Program parallels the middle school Summer Camp in structure, consisting of 4 teams comprised of 10 incoming ninth grade students, five high school TAs (juniors and seniors) and a college student that serves as the team leader.
The high school TAs are selected on the basis of their academic record, dedication to learning, communication skills, maturity level and desire to help others. In keeping with the program's long-term commitment to its students, high school students who previously participated in the Math Corps as middle school students are given special consideration.
Working with students for six weeks out of the year is simply not enough. The Math Corps Saturday Programs are a complement to the Summer Programs, providing a vehicle to follow through with students during the academic year. The same team team-oriented, mentor driven, student-teaching-student approach is utilized.
Administration & Staff
The Math Corps is a faculty-run program with the Director being a tenured full professor in the Department of Mathematics. Faculty members from Mathematics are also involved. One of the Mathematics Education faculty members serves as Associate Director and holds a unique University position called the WSU Math Corps Lectureship, in which he teaches two university courses and two K-12 classes. During the summer programs, three K-12 teachers supervise the instruction provided by the high school and college students and handle any discipline problems. Daily operation of the Camp is the responsibility of a Program Coordinator, under the supervision of the Program Director of the WSU Mathematics Pipeline.
In making staff selections, identifying highly qualified caring people who will be sensitive to the needs of the students is paramount. It is worth noting that although the program's participating middle and high school students are predominantly African-American, the college students and senior staff have been an ethnically diverse group throughout the existence of the program.