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Campus Program Multiplies Opportunities for Youth

Math options students start out with an ice breaker activity in the campus gymnasium.
Math options students start out with an ice breaker activity in the campus gymnasium.
5/12/2011 —

DuBois – Each May, seventh grade girls from area school districts converge at Penn State DuBois to learn about the many career options there are for those who excel in mathematics and sciences. 


Math Options is an annual program that is designed teach young girls how to apply mathematics and science skills to a variety of real-world situations.  The goal of the program is to keep these youngsters interested in mathematics by showing them the opportunities and satisfaction that they can realize through its use.  The program is aimed at the specific seventh grade female demographic for a reason.


"Seventh grade is a critical age when girls start to lose interest in Math," said Senior Instructor in Education Pamela Hufnagel.  "Programs like this have been proven to help hold that interest.  Strong evidence exists that women are often limited in career options due to early decisions not to study math and science.  Our sessions are led by professional women in nontraditional careers who demonstrate real-world perspectives of math, science, and engineering."  Hufnagel noted that Penn State DuBois students also assist in the instruction and supervision of youth in the program. 


This year, nearly 200 seventh grade girls from 15 school districts participated in Math Options. The program splits the day up into workshops that groups of students rotate through, one at a time.  The workshops feature lessons that teach the girls how to apply their skills to things like forensic science, money management, wildlife studies, and more. 


"A lot of these girls think that math is beyond them.  We're trying to show them that it is not, and that it can be used in everyday life," said Math Instructor June Strohm, who taught a workshop on tessellations for this year's Math Options. "Tessellations are when you break things up into sections and patterns like tiles on a floor," she said.  "We're showing them how patterns and designs repeat so they can see how tessellations work to break up a space.  When they see math put to practical use like this, they get comfortable with it."


The Penn State DuBois students who worked with the children in Math Options said they wanted to make an impact on students younger than them, and contribute to their eventual success.  A forensic science major, Sophie Reed of Clearfield said, "It inspires them, and it might mean they'll look into taking more math and science classes.  I don't think there are many people out there sharing that interest, and if they see it from us, maybe they'll be inspired." 

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