In late July 2020, the Santa Cruz COE, working with DeLaveaga Elementary teacher Isaí Baltézar and 4 interns from UCSC’s Cal Teach program, organized the first-ever “Virtual Math Camp” for 26 6th grade students in our county. During the week, students engaged synchronously each morning for 75 minutes and asynchronously each afternoon for 45 minutes to:
- Have fun doing math and solving problems
- Learn math content and practices
- Use math to explore equity and social justice
- Develop power and identity as young mathematicians
- Make friends
A diverse group of students was recruited from across the county, and camp staff designed activities for campers to develop trust and positive identities for themselves and their fellow campers.
Students spent time each day working collaboratively on a variety of problems, including those featured in the popular Julia Robinson Math Festival. Additionally, students looked at ways math could be used in social justice – to uncover and analyze inequities, and strategize on action steps to address inequities. Social themes included voter disenfranchisement as well as wage inequalities.
In addition to supporting the campers, the COE also used the camp as a learning lab, both for educators from the COE, local districts, and UCSC, and for parents:
- 14 educators spent a morning visiting camp, then reflected on ways to improve distance learning in math
- A parent focus group of 8 families met to discuss ways to improve distance learning
Student survey data indicate math camp had a significant impact on students’ positive attitudes and growth mindset in math (see table 1). One student reflected, “Thank you for organizing math camp! I really enjoyed it. It was fun seeing everyone every morning – I actually looked forward to it every day. I liked the math problems – relatable and from the real world.”
Another student added, “I really enjoyed connecting with other students. I actually made friends. It would be fun if we could do another camp soon.”
The COE agrees. We plan to design another math camp for the summer 2021.