While most high schoolers are enjoying the last days of summer, about 80 Orange County teachers and students are participating in a UCF program that encourages the use of technology to teach and learn math.
Pictures Represent Opportunities For Inspiration in Technology (P.R.O.F.I.T.) trains math teachers to use interactive technology to teach their classes and reaches out to bright youngsters who are eager to learn more about math and computers. The yearlong program began this summer with a two-week training session for teachers.
Incoming sophomores – most of whom are women or minority students, groups that are typically underrepresented in computer science — are now in their second and final week of camp.
P.R.O.F.I.T. will continue throughout the school year as the newly learned technology is added to math curricula at the 12 participating high schools. Parent socials, optional weekend sessions and mandatory monthly meetings will also be held during the school year.
A UCF team led by Computer Science professor Niels da Vitoria Lobo proposed the program to help expand students’ understanding of the relationship between math and computers. The National Science Foundation provided a three-year, $1.2 million grant to fund P.R.O.F.I.T.
“It really is a huge collaboration,” said Kim Anderson, program coordinator for P.R.O.F.I.T. She praised the dedication of Orange County Public Schools, UCF and local corporations that sponsor events for the participants.
Students who participated last year have already begun to find success in the computer science field. Eleven of the 60 students are spending this summer interning for computer science companies, working on computer-based research and software writing.
In July, 20 teachers gathered at UCF to learn the technology they would be using in their classrooms. They also created lesson plans that teams of teachers are using to instruct the 62 students at the P.R.O.F.I.T. Summer Youth Institute.
The lesson plans teach students the programming language that goes into popular technology such as photo software and social networking Web sites. Math skills are taught through fun activities, such as using functions to mimic the curves of a roller coaster.
Each teacher received a laptop and stipend and for participating in the program.
Students, who are on an accelerated math track and will be taking Algebra II alongside older students, were selected based on teacher recommendations. Students receive $400 and a laptop for their participation.
P.R.O.F.I.T. teaches the students the value of networking and making connections with their peers.
Zandra Walker, a student at Evans High School, said she wanted to participate in the program so she could get to know her math teacher before school started and preview the material she’ll be taught throughout the school year.
“P.R.O.F.I.T. will definitely improve our learning,” she added.
Teachers said they are excited about exposing students to a new way of thinking and helping them succeed in school and in their future careers.
“The students’ exposure to technology with mathematics gives them an idea of how math can be used in real-life settings,” said Norman Jackson, a teacher at University High School, which has nine students participating in P.R.O.F.I.T. “All jobs involve math.”