Math Education and Engagement in West Philadelphia

Penn students help local high school students prep for math exams
From working with negative numbers to dividing by units of time, students in Math 123 worked on a wide variety of essential math skills to prepare for the Keystone Algebra I exam. (Photo: Eric Sucar)

This past Fall, students from various Schools and backgrounds across the University met each Thursday with Paul Robeson High School students for afternoon study sessions. The Penn students were all part of Math 123, one of the University’s Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses. Robeson students used the sessions to sharpen key math skills by working through examples, discussing problem solving strategies, and providing real-time feedback.

James Baker, a Penn Engineering freshman from Doylestown, says that working with the same group of students and establishing good relationships was “paramount” for the class this fall. And while Baker says that he gained a number of skills about how to teach math, such as demonstrating how to do problems in different ways, one important lesson he learned was the ability to adapt their lesson plans when needed.

“Since we only have an hour and a half, you have to be okay with not teaching all of the content. You have to take a comprehensive look at what the student knows and what they don’t know and adjust your methods so that they’re getting the best experience,” he says.

The goal of the ABCS course, says assistant professor and Math 123 instructor Mona Merling, is to provide Penn students with the skills to be mentors and to lead hands-on activities that help 10th graders prepare for the Algebra I Keystone Exam, which is required to graduate in Pennsylvania. The curriculum for this semester was recently enhanced thanks to funding from the Netter Center’s Penn Graduate Community-Engaged Research Mentorship program.

Read the full article, “Math education and engagement in West Philadelphia,” in Penn Today.