PC Professor Designs Math Camp for R.I. School
Dr. Anthony M. Rodriguez, assistant professor of education at Providence College, recently ran a two-week math program for eight high school students that led them to design and build model bridges.
Rodriguez was contacted by Dennis Curran, executive director of the New England Laborers’ and Cranston Public Schools Construction and Career Academy (CCA) in Cranston, R.I., for support in helping students improve their New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores in mathematics.
The CCA is a public charter academy that collaborates with the New England Laborers’ Union to provide students with an education and the ability to explore different careers. To graduate from CCA, and every public school in Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire, students must pass the NECAP exam, a series of tests in mathematics, science, reading, and writing.
Rodriguez created a syllabus for the math camp, which included learning a new method to solve word problems called the Singapore model method. Students focused on algebra and geometry, and they ultimately applied their lessons to a final project — building a model bridge.
Students travelled to Providence to study bridges in the city and to draw inspiration for designs. By using parabolas and similar triangles, they then employed algebraic and geometric methods to design a bridge on paper.
After observing the bridges in Providence and understanding the math behind bridges and their shapes, students built their own structures based on their drawings.
“I was impressed with the students’ knack for building,” Rodriguez said. “They have a natural skill for it that many people don’t have.”
Students also concentrated on practice problems for the NECAP and applied their lessons to their work.
“We watched the students get better at breaking down problems, and we could see them using the Singapore box method in their work,” Rodriguez said. “Being able to use their hands and create a physical structure helped them.”
In addition to creating the syllabus, Rodriguez trained Cranston Public School instructors Kathleen Byrne, John Zolli, and Catherine Thompson for the program.
The program ended with a presentation at which students displayed their written work and their bridges in PC’s Harkins Hall.
“A lot of these students work. They gave up ten days, which means sacrificing money they could have made, in order to be here,” said Zolli, a special education teacher at Western Hills Middle School in Cranston. “They didn’t receive academic credit so there wasn’t much incentive, but they still came, and that is huge.”
— Nick Tavares ’16
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