The cover of a pamphlet promoting Math Enrichment Zooms for seventh and eighth graders prepared by junior Andrew Brooks. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Brooks)
The cover of a pamphlet promoting Math Enrichment Zooms for seventh and eighth graders prepared by junior Andrew Brooks.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Brooks

Math Team teaches middle school students over Zoom

February 8, 2021

Several members of the York Math Team teach middle school students advanced math subjects through free Zoom sessions scheduled throughout 2021.

This past month, seven Math Team members got together to host their first “Math Enrichment Zoom”. The five planned Zoom sessions consist of York students teaching interested seventh and eighth graders math over the course of the school year. The curriculum, developed by junior Andrew Brooks, aims to teach higher level math in enjoyable and interactive ways.

“The idea is that each session we cover a math topic that is fun and not typically taught in school,” Brooks said. “For example, we had our first session Monday, and the topic was algorithms. Some of the other topics we’ll have are logic puzzles, tiling and dominoes. So that’s what it is in a nutshell.”

In order to make these sessions a reality, Brooks had to develop a curriculum for five one hour long courses. Keeping the lessons short enough to fit in an hour, while still teaching meaningful content was particularly tricky for him.

“I’ve done a lot of research and spent a lot of time making sure the content wouldn’t be too easy or too difficult for the middle schoolers and also fit it in the time frame of the hour,” Brooks said. “I also had to contact York students to help run these sessions. It’s almost like creating a business.”

Another challenge with creating these classes was getting the word around. Brooks contacted several school officials, including York principal Shahe Bagdasarian, to set up both the Zoom meetings through the school, as well as market them to any interested middle school students.

“I actually contacted middle school math teachers and asked them to share with the parents and share with the students that this was taking place,” director of STEM Education for Elmhurst CUSD 205 David Beedy said. “We also communicated via email, and I think they announced it in their Zoom classrooms. The middle school principal sent out notifications to parents. That’s how we got the word out”.

Along with marketing the first session, Beedy also ran the Zoom call for Brooks, with the help of volunteering Math Team members. Several middle school students joined the call and were instructed by the volunteers over the course of the hour.

“We had about 26 middle school students come, and then there were seven Math Team members there,” Beedy said. “Each member had their own breakout room, and they worked with a small group of students on the problems. One thing was a game, where the kids had to play against each other. They were taking chili peppers out of the jar, but they didn’t want to be the last one to take a pepper out of the jar, so they were trying to figure out, is there a way you can always win?”

Accompanying each Math Enrichment Zoom is a Google form asking for thoughts on the class. The session for Algorithms on Jan. 25 received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from students.

“I enjoyed it a lot, especially the games”, one participating student wrote. “It was a good amount of info and fun!”

There are currently four more Math Enrichment Zooms scheduled for the 2020-2021 school year. Upcoming topics include logic puzzles, coloring maps and the Monty Hall Problem. These Zoom sessions remain free for any seventh and eighth grade students, so anyone that may be interested are encouraged to attend.

“My first goal is to just expose middle schoolers to fun advanced math,” Brooks said. “My second goal is to create connections between middle schoolers and students on the Math Team to create a bridge, so that when eighth graders enter the Math Team at York next year, they will see people they already know. It’s a fun way to create bonds between students of different age levels”.

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