New math camp seen as plus for student scholars

A new summer math camp at SUNY Oswego aimed to solve a problematic equation: college-level mathematics classes that may complicate the progress of students in the science and engineering fields.

Jack Narayan, distinguished teaching professor of mathematics, leads students through yoga during this summer’s math camp. In addition to project-based and team-based lessons, the incoming freshmen received tips on diet, exercise and study habits.

Faculty Fellow Shashi Kanbur coordinated a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant that launched the math camp while providing $4,000 scholarships to 14 new and 14 returning students pursuing a degree in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

The immersive three-week summer program was geared more toward interaction and problem-solving than traditional lecturing, Associate Provost Rameen Mohammadi said.

For one problem — “Would all living humans fit in Lake Ontario?” — students had to calculate volume of the lake, number of people on earth, and other factors while using mathematics concepts like probability and estimation.

“These students were taught in a project-based, group-based, problem-based environment,” Mohammadi said. “There is no doubt that active learning works well in the learning process.”

Mohammadi said administrators would like to find ways to expand the program.

“If these students persist, year after year, both in their disciplines and at the college, that will show the ultimate success of the program,” Mohammadi said. “The goal is to keep students in the sciences. Obviously, the result so far is very promising.”

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