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$1.46 million grant from Lesher Foundation to expand CSUEB math academy program in 2012


A math instructor works with students learning algebra in a summer Mathematics Achievement Academy session in 2010. The Lesher Foundation will support additional academies in Contra Costa County beginning in 2012. (Photo courtesy Alameda County Office of Education)

  • May 25, 2011

As California State University, East Bay prepares for significant expansion to its regional Mathematics Achievement Academies in the summer of 2011, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation has announced a $1.46 million grant to the university to expand the program into Contra Costa County next year.

Directed by Cal State East Bay with partners in regional school districts, the academies offer direct support for middle school students and early high school students as they begin college preparatory mathematics coursework. The grant from the Lesher Foundation will sponsor additional academies at schools in Contra Costa County beginning in 2012.

“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to increase access to mathematics education for students in the East Bay,” said CSUEB President Mohammad Qayoumi. “The Lesher Foundation and Cal State East Bay both believe that healthy children and families are the building blocks of strong and vibrant communities.”

Eighty percent of students who successfully complete Algebra I and Geometry by the 10th grade successfully go on to college. College pathway programs, which aim to improve access to higher education for underserved students, are a key priority for CSUEB and for its University of Possibilities comprehensive fundraising campaign, now in the early leadership phase.

“The Lesher Foundation has long supported education in Contra Costa County and we are committed to making sure that students have the help they need so they can be ready for college and productive careers,” said Kathleen Odne, executive director of the Lesher Foundation.

Lesher’s grant will also include funding for additional hours during the summer academy program to provide technology support for students to learn to use math-related software and presentation tools. They will also fund professional development for the academic year teachers of the academy students.

"As we face severe educational budget challenges, it is heartening to see the strong collaboration between Cal State East Bay and the Lesher Foundation as they partner to help our children increase their math skills and succeed in life,” said California State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, who represents Contra Costa County.

Mathematics Achievement Academies began in 2008 with a pilot program in algebra for students in underserved areas. In 2011, the university has scheduled 43 sections at 16 sites, planning to serve close to 1000 students. Some sections will offer algebra instruction for new participants, while others provide instruction in geometry for returning students.

Phil Duren, a professor of mathematics education in the Department of Teacher Education at CSUEB and one of the MAA program administrators, said that the academies emphasize conceptual understanding of algebra and geometry, with instructors using several different learning formats and tools to help students.

“The traditional approach is to teach algebra or geometry as 100 daily unrelated lessons,” he said, “but we try to make connections that facilitate better learning and understanding.”

Duren and Julia Olkin, assistant professor in the mathematics and computer science department, are the co-directors of CSUEB’s Center for Mathematics Education and Research. They coordinate the MAA program and will oversee its expansion into Contra Costa County.

The four-week academy sessions are held in June and July at sites throughout the Alameda and Contra Costa counties, including Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and Concord. CSUEB and its partners will work with school districts in Contra Costa County to plan for the 2012 expansion with Lesher’s support, as well as continue the program at established sites.

The math academies also support the university’s strategic objective and campaign priority to improve education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The program has received considerable private support in the past year, including from Chevron Corp, AT&T, Bank of America, Union Bank of California, Lam Research and the CSU Chancellor’s Office, as well as Alameda County school districts for programs in that county.

“To receive so much support for these programs is a sign that Cal State East Bay is addressing a serious regional need for improved math education and greater opportunities for underserved students,” Qayoumi said.

Including the grant from the Lesher Foundation, Cal State East Bay has raised $12.7 million in total private support since the launch of the initial phase of its University of Possibilities campaign in 2009. The campaign is anticipated to raise $40-$50 million overall during a seven to eight year period.

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