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YouCubed Summer Camp Offers Students a Fresh Look at Math

While CCSD59 students are knee-deep in summer break, classrooms across the district never stay quiet for long.

Following junior high graduation and the final day of student attendance, the rest of June is routinely dedicated to summer school programs. CCSD59 offers multiple courses that allow students to dive into nearly any subject they would study during the school year.

A new course offered this summer is helping students look at certain math problems in a new light. YouCubed, created by Dr. Jo Boaler, a Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, teaches students to form a deeper understanding of math concepts to help strengthen their mathematical thinking and mindset.

This approach is largely pattern-based, as students search for patterns in numbers and shapes. The camp, which began on June 10 at Holmes Junior High, has featured lessons that have lasted for weeks. This encourages students to consistently notice new patterns that could be applied to solving different problems.

“I feel as though they really explore and open a different part of their brain,” said Lisa Browning, an eighth-grade teacher at Friendship Junior High. “Even if I know a way to solve a problem, I see students solving it in a way that I never realized.”

Students from Grades 3-7 use blocks and equations provided to them to tackle geometry, graphing, factorials, and visualizing shapes. They are presented with a relaxed atmosphere that provides them time to work out where they may have hit an obstacle on a problem.

“Their articulation around these activities, that’s where they’re learning the most,” said CCSD59 Math Facilitator Cindy Placko. “They catch themselves when they think they know an answer. As soon as they start articulating it, they can catch their own errors because it starts to not make sense. Those have been some of the greatest feats during this course.”

Placko added how impressed she was to see students develop a stronger affection and understanding of math in this short amount of time. Several students echoed how much they enjoyed meeting new friends and learning new concepts. Each one plans to apply this new mindset to their mathematical work as they enter junior high.

“When you struggle or make mistakes, that’s when you learn the most,” said Tiana, a sixth-grade student at Holmes. “It’s fun and you learn a lot at the same time.”

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