Math Keeps Opportunity in the Equation

DUBOIS – “As you find that you can have fun figuring things out by using math, you’ll start to realize that math is not so hard. Math prepares you to do just about anything and opens doors to many opportunities,” Chancellor Anita McDonald told a gymnasium full of seventh grade girls as she welcomed them to the annual Math Options event at Penn State DuBois.

McDonald’s comments echoed the goal of Math Options; to keep young women interested in mathematics by showing them the opportunities and satisfaction that they can realize through its use. The girls spent the day using math to determine things like how many bears a parcel of forest habitat can support, and calculating the deer population in a given area. One exercise had them disassembling computers, and another applied mathematics to fitness activities. Penn State DuBois faculty and staff members, as well as volunteers from the community served as instructors for the lessons. The instructors were women who work in a variety of professions that deal with mathematics on a regular basis. “We try to get them interested in the careers so they realize that if they stick with math, it could lead to a great career,” said Senior Instructor in Education, Dr. Pamela Hufnagel. “These are often careers the kids might not know about.”

The program is aimed at this specific demographic for a reason. “Seventh grade is a critical age when girls start to loose interest in Math,” Hufnagel said. “Programs like this have been proven to help hold that interest.”

The effectiveness the program has led to a growing interest among school administrators in the area. This year, 206 seventh grade girls from 16 schools participated in the program.

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