Summer Math Academy Welcomes Buford Middle School Students to U.Va. Grounds

June 19, 2009 — Some Charlottesville middle-school students are attending the University of Virginia this summer to learn how math is used in many careers.

About 30 students from Buford Middle School are participating in the Summer Math and Leadership Academy, sponsored by U.Va.'s Office for Diversity and Equity and the Charlottesville Public Schools.

"We're pleased to partner with the Charlottesville school system to support the Summer Math Academy as a demonstration of the University's interest in improving the community that we are a part of, especially in regards to increasing educational opportunities for young people – who may someday be our students," said William Harvey, U.Va.'s vice president and chief officer for diversity.

The two-week program, which runs through June 26, aims to give rising seventh- and eighth-graders a jump start on algebra and also introduce them to aspects of undergraduate college life. Buford teachers teach pre-algebra and algebra concepts and applications for three hours in the morning at Thornton Hall and then students eat at Observatory Hill dining hall.

"The success of the program is the result of a community working collaboratively to increase students' understanding of mathematics," Buford principal Eric Johnson said.

The students are also encouraged to think beyond college. New to the academy this year are afternoon enrichment activities meant to spark interest in careers and explain how math relates to many different professions. One day the diverse group of students toured the Law School and brainstormed scenarios where lawyers would use math, for example, in deciding and calculating how much to bill a client.

The students will also visit the U.Va. Medical Center and see robots in a medical simulation center lab. Other exposure to U.Va. includes an admission talk and tour of Grounds, and a tour of John Paul Jones Arena.

Students and their families have responded positively. "Over the past two years, students who have completed the program have experienced success in pre-algebra and algebra courses during the school year, " Johnson said. "Students gain confidence that they can think critically and algebraically, which continues into the school year."

A closing ceremony will be held June 26 at 11 a.m. at Observatory Hill Dining Hall.

– By Laura Hoffman