Camp helps middle-schoolers’ believe in their math abilities

Program returns to in-person instruction for its third year in Pojoaque

By David Moore | August 10, 2021

Mindset Math Camp Opt
Laboratory education specialist Monica Martinez-Archuleta works with one of the students at the Mindset Math camp in Pojoaque. David Moore

The Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy (MSA) returned to in-person instruction to co-host its free math summer camp June 7 through July 15 for Pojoaque Valley School District (PVSD) students from grades 6 through 9.

A total of 36 students took part in the two four-week-long sessions which were designed to foster students’ appreciation for mathematics, to develop their problem-solving abilities, and to raise their awareness that they are capable of learning more challenging mathematics. 

“The camp also functioned as a professional learning experience for PVSD teachers so that they could develop alternative perspectives and practices in mathematics teaching and learning,” said Monica Martinez-Archuleta, one of the MSA organizers.

Completing problem-based tasks

Students took part in problem-based mathematical tasks for two hours each day; a sample problem might be constructing squares of several sizes and then developing a strategy for determining the number of tiles needed to construct the square, which helps students develop algebraic generalizations from real-world experiences. 

Following the math session, students also engaged in a one-hour learning extension that involved outdoor science activities, crafts, or hearing about their career journeys from STEM professionals (many of whom were PVSD graduates or LANL employees).
The sessions at the camp (which was free for the students) were led by five PVSD teachers and two LANL education specialists from MSA. As the camp went on, the district teachers took more responsibility for developing and leading sessions.

Developing a growth mindset

“One crucial concept we worked on was helping the students develop a sense of what it means to have a growth mindset — to believe in one’s ability to learn and do math to high levels,” says Randy Merker, the other MSA education specialist who helped run the camp. 

“For the teachers, in addition to learning alternate approaches to teaching math, they felt it was valuable to have opportunities to learn and practice student engagement as learning transitions back into the classroom after being remote for over a year.”

The Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy (MSA) is a comprehensive professional development program designed to support improvement of teaching and learning mathematics and science in school districts in Northern New Mexico.

Support for the Mindset Math Summer Camp came from LANL, Laboratory managing operator Triad, PVSD, and the Shaggy Peak Fund of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.