Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

So You're Not the Type for the Math Club, Eh? ; Struggling Students Find a Winning Equation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

So You're Not the Type for the Math Club, Eh? ; Struggling Students Find a Winning Equation

Article excerpt

At the beginning of the school year, Diana Vargas didn't even like math. Now, the junior at Boston's Brighton High School is busy plotting the course toward her future career: teaching ... math.

What happened? She joined the after-school math team simply "to get some extra help" - but she ended up with exponentially more than she expected.

Increasingly, such competitive math teams have become more than an after-school activity for the whiz-kid set. They're luring students who fall near the bottom or middle of their classes, and are seeking anything from a jump start in geometry to tutoring in trig. Many of them find that math made fun helps them soar ahead in ways they never expected.

Meeting every Wednesday, and also working on Saturdays, two teams from Brighton entered the Try-Math-a-Lon, an annual contest geared toward improving skills needed for the SAT. It's sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), which works to attract underrepresented minorities to science and technology careers.

To help prepare students for the contest, it paired up with a local group that has a similar goal, the Massachusetts Pre- Engineering Program (MassPep). Diana's team included two seniors taking advanced-placement calculus and another junior who, like Diana, found math somewhat intimidating. But before long, they were mastering everything from exponents to logic.

This spring, the team basked in glory for weeks after returning victorious from Charlotte, N.C., where the national Try-Math-a-Lon brought together about 10,000 students, alumni, and corporate representatives.

The winning team met Boston Mayor Tom Menino. Even better, they were congratulated in the halls by students who once called them nerds. (And to those who still thought they were nerdy, team member Yinnette Sano had the reply: "I'm a nerd with $600! …

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