GHC's pilot math boot camp deemed a success

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For five Georgia Highlands College students, spending a week of their summer vacation in a math boot camp ended up paying dividends.

GHC's pilot STEMFIT math camp — the first of its kind in the University System of Georgia — focused on helping incoming high school dual-enrollment students and college freshmen be prepared to start at a collegiate math level of pre-calculus or higher.

The free camp, held in mid-July, was aimed at getting students who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics on the right track in their math classes.  

“In order to complete a STEM pathway in a timely manner and maintain momentum toward graduation, students should at a minimum start with pre-calculus,” Melanie Largin, dean of the mathematics and computer science division, said in a press release. “Often times, students enter at the lower college-algebra level but can take an exemption exam if their SAT/ACT scores are high enough to then get to pre-calculus.”

But the pass rate for that exemption test is "historically low" due to those concepts being covered early in a student’s high school career, so GHC developed the boot camp to help students pass the college algebra exemption exam and to prepare them for their first years of college, according to Largin. 

Five students — one each from Cartersville, Rydal and Dallas and two from Rome — completed the first camp, which was sponsored by the GHC Center for STEM Learning and a University System of Georgia STEM Initiative grant.  

Three — including Adam Hall of Rydal and Omkumar Maisuria of Cartersville — passed the college algebra exemption test and will be registered for pre-calculus this school year. Two students passed the pre-calculus exemption test and will take calculus this year.

Both in-house exams were administered at no cost to the students.

“We are excited that this effort will help to propel these students forward,” Largin said. “We look forward to continuing to expand this effort through our STEM grant, to utilizing some of the lessons used during the camp in our ongoing college algebra classrooms at GHC and to presenting our results to our colleagues across the state.”

Maisuria and Hall, both 16-year-old juniors at Cass and Adairsville high schools, respectively, have begun their first year of dual-enrollment at Georgia Highlands and attended the camp to try to get exempted from college algebra.   

"It was a great experience, definitely worth the time," said Maisuria, who recommends other students try it next summer. "I made some great friends, and the camp was a great refresher of some of the things I already knew."

Hall said he liked the boot camp and thought it was "really useful."

"I wanted to do this because I’d like as much free college as possible," he said. "I met some excellent people during this camp, and it was a great opportunity for all of us involved."

Maisuria said the fundamental concepts that were covered included logarithmic, exponential, linear and polynomial equations. 

"It was basically a review of Algebra 2, but it was covered more in depth," he said. 

Both students said the camp helped them pass the exemption exam.

"It did help because it had been a year and a half since I’d seen the material so it was excellent review," Hall said. 

"It definitely helped," Maisuria said. "It gave me a refresher on how to solve the problems, and it helped me on the test since I knew the concepts."

He added he passed the algebra exam with a score of 24 out of 25, and he attempted the pre-calculus test as well, "but I scored 11/25 so I didn’t pass that one."

Due to Bartow County's block schedule, neither student has math this semester, but both of them will be taking pre-calculus in the spring.

GHC plans to continue the camp next summer and to expand it to more students.  

For questions or to register for the next one, contact math@highlands.edu or call 678-872-8099.