The University of Michigan's (U-M) Elementary Mathematics Lab
(EML), a summer math program for children, recently held classes in Detroit for the first time in the program’s history. EML classes were hosted at The School at Marygrove in Detroit from July 24-28.
"Our work from the beginning has always been about serving communities that have been historically marginalized, and clearly Detroit is a setting where that's [the case]," says Dr. Deborah Ball, director of TeachingWorks, a center at U-M’s Marsal Family School of Education, which hosted the event.
"We are fully committed to serving children who have often been underserved and underappreciated in the system," Ball continues. "We know that Black and brown children are often not seen as smart at math and not capable, while they're often described as struggling."
Ball, who spent a significant portion of her career as an elementary school teacher, says part of the magic of the EML is in observing children solving math problems so complicated they might stump many adults.
The new location was not this year’s only change. According to Ball, the EML typically works with children in fifth grade, but at Marygrove, organizers chose to work with children going into the second and third grades.
"We saw that the children were excited to be engaged in this and really stepped up to the challenging work and showed us how brilliant they were," Ball says.
According to Ball, "a big part of our motivation [in running the EML] is to make more visible in the public eye what the work of teaching is and how skillfully teachers can actually see what children are capable of doing."
As a whole, Ball says the program was a success.
"We saw that the families were really committed and interested," she says. "… It was wonderful. We felt very supported by the school and the people who work at the school."
Ball says she’d like to continue developing a relationship with Marygrove and potentially hold classes there again, but everything will depend on funding.
"There is a challenge to fund this program because we offer it to the families completely at no charge and there are a lot of expenses involved in the program," she says.
Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.
Photos courtesy of U-M.
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