Beyond Math, Giving Students A Glimpse Of What’s Possible

“I like your thought process. Can you show me on paper?” Reid Larson, a mechanical engineering student at NDSU, is one of eight college students spending several hours per week with second graders at Ed Clapp elementary in Fargo. The college students play games and do fun activities to help their second graders understand and master math concepts.

Organizing his groups as a “math congress” or “math club”, Larson said, gives students an opportunity to be excited to learn without being afraid to make mistakes. And he said it’s working.

“All the students have quickly improved and continue increasing their understanding through various games. At the same time, we have been repeatedly increasing their addition capabilities by looking at math equations in many different ways,” said Larson.

For some students, it’s about pushing even further beyond the second grade boundaries. For others, it’s helping them understand basic concepts to get them to grade level. While the extra attention is giving students more opportunities to grasp important math concepts and improve assessment scores, the benefits go beyond math skills.

For the second graders, the college students become mentors who are chasing their goals. This might be the first time the elementary students have even considered college, opening them up to possibilities they never imagined before. The interactions may also challenge a student’s beliefs – like seeing a female engineer.

For the college students, it’s a chance to spend ten weeks really digging into and sharing their passion. At times, the experience also challenges them to learn to teach math in an entirely new way.

The GFMEDC piloted the program last year partnering with NDSU to place two college students in one second grade classroom. Student scores improved across the board, some jumping significantly. This year, the program includes eight NDSU students covering all four second grade classrooms.