Math and Counseling & Student Affairs Professors connect with teens for Minding My Math Business
- Aurelia Spaulding
- Friday, June 18th, 2021
From June 14-17, 2021, professors in WKU’s Math Department and WKU’s Counseling and Student Affairs program set out to engage youth in mathematics during a four-day inclusive summer program for Black and Brown teens called Minding My Math Business. The program, taught by Associate Professor Dr. Lacretia Dye, Associate Professor Dr. Natasha Gerstenschlager, Associate Professor Dr. Kanita DuCloux, Associate Professor Michelle Jones, and Instructor Robin Ayers, took place at Western Kentucky University.
Plans for Minding My Math Business started earlier in the spring semester when Dye and Gerstenschlager discussed what it would look like to mix math with mindfulness.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity that developed students’ mathematical identities and recognized inherent skills as mathematicians for our Black and Brown youth,” Gerstenschlager said.
By mathematical identity, the professors refer to how the teens see themselves as math scholars and view their relationships with math. “For example, some students will say ‘I don’t like math,’ but oftentimes they do not realize their potential in math,” Jones expressed.
For the professors, creating a summer program seemed like a unique opportunity to create and deliver relevant math content for Black and Brown youth from all math backgrounds, and most importantly be delivered by Black or Brown educators. Dye said, “This is something that is missing in our Bowling Green community.”
“Research indicates a correlation between math performance and success in college. Similarly, researchers have also found that students commonly begin to experience math anxiety in 9th and 10th grades. Math anxiety impairs a students’ long-term math success and working memory,” Dye explained. “While this impairment affects students across cultures, many local opportunities offered to develop young students’ mathematical abilities are not focused on African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities, honoring their inherent giftedness and abilities. Program facilitators seek to offer ways to engage African American and Hispanic/Latinx students in rigorous mathematics, supported by mindfulness and meditation practices.”
During the day, youth in grades 6-8 met in the morning and grades 9-12 participated in the afternoon. In three hours, participants engaged in and learned about mindfulness and meditative practices to apply in class and everyday activities. Then, they proceeded into math activities tied to everyday situations. The math instructors divided up the content delivery in pairs, with Dye leading the mindfulness components each day.
“We incorporated a variety of interactive activities that prompted the teens to engage in discussion on topics, such as those social justice issues that affect Black and Brown people,” Jones said. “The students utilized several areas of mathematics including, but not limited to probability, statistics, geometry, and problem-solving skills to analyze data and simulate research situations.”
Minding My Math Business is presented in partnership with For a Real Change, Inc., a local youth-serving nonprofit, and the Kelly M. Burch Institute for Transformative Practices in Higher Education.