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Increasing math competency for Native Americans

NSF Award:

Infrastructure via Science and Technology Enhanced Partnerships III  (Montana University System Office)

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Working with tribal colleges in the state, the Montana Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) offers an intensive math preparation program to reduce math as a barrier for Native American students. The Accelerated Math Program (AMP) provides six weeks of instruction in precalculus and calculus to Native American high-school students.

At the end of the first summer AMP was offered, students in the program tested an average of 1.5 levels higher on the math competency test with some increasing up to four levels.  AMP has the potential to make significant progress in reducing the barrier that calculus imposes on students with less access to strong preparation and experience. All of the students who graduated high school in the first year continued on to a science, technology, engineering or math major at a college or university.

At the start of AMP, students receive a baseline assessment of their math skills through a standardized test. They visit the Montana State University campus during their first week and attend calculus and precalculus classes to get an idea of the pace and content in the courses. During the program, they study math eight hours a day, with three fitness breaks to keep their minds active and engaged. 

The instructors, who are tribal college faculty, provide lessons and problems both in traditional methods and through the use of iPads and apps so that students become familiar with resources they can access when not in the classroom. Many of the students report that having this tool and learning how to direct their own instruction was one of the most valuable aspects of the program. At the end of the six weeks, students who have completed the program with fewer than three absences get to keep the iPad they used during class.

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  • native american high-school students attend an accelerated math program
Native American high-school students attend an accelerated math course.
Kelly Gorham

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