A Pilot in mathematics enrichment to increase pathways to STEM

Awardee: Katherine Penner (FAS)

Summary: Awardee implemented a large-scale version of a successful pilot “book club” aimed at lower level math students to create an environment to practice and experiment with advanced concepts.

Preceptor in Mathematics Katherine Penner developed “Math Meetups” for a small subset of lower-level math students to engage with extracurricular course work and develop their skills in a fun, low-stakes space—counter to the often competitive nature of STEM coursework that she observed. Participants performed activities like logic games and “viral” math puzzles for students to work on in a space where they could experiment with mathematical concepts. Meetups received promising levels of interest from students who were ready to give up on math courses.

Penner scaled the club up by inviting all lower level math students (roughly 1,000 students) to participate. Many lower level math students experience significant emotional challenges and a lack of confidence when dealing with the complexities and ambiguities of math, leading to attrition in upper-level courses. Nearly 100 students took advantage of or expressed interest in the opportunity posed by Math Meetups, with about 50 students attending the 9 meetings held over the course of the semester. Penner hopes at least some of these students will continue into upper-level courses when they may not have otherwise. She plans to hold monthly meetups (to allow for more student attendance) in the coming year and is developing guidelines for the Math department and for future Preceptors to continue Math Meetups into the foreseeable future.