If you’re afraid of algebra, you’ve just turned the page. Maybe your fear began as a kid in school, and it ended your math interest and sent you straight into the arms of a career that didn’t need higher mathematics. Like waiting tables or journalism. Those dreams of being a scientist or architect were squelched by algebra anxiety.
The $2.9 million in the equation is the grant amount awarded by the National Science Foundation in mid January to OMSI, the popular Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, to further the daunting cause of teaching algebra to youngsters. It’s the largest award ever received by OMSI in its 64 years. Over the past 10 years, NSF has awarded OMSI more than $10 million.
The exhibit, Access Algebra, will debut at OMSI in May 2010, where it will stay for six months before traveling the country for five to 10 years. The exhibit is expected to reach more than 3.5 million visitors nationwide.
The X in the equation is the project’s ambition. “Algebra is a difficult topic, and for most people hard to visualize that they could learn it in a large exhibit,” says Marilyn Johnson, OMSI director of research and development, adding that this is a new area that advances the field of informal math education.
Access Algebra targets middle-schoolers and includes a “training package” for volunteers and staff at other museums. Johnson says this undertaking is one of the most complex they’ve tackled. OMSI is also going to partner with middle-school students from the Blazers Boys and Girls club in Northeast Portland to help conceive the exhibit, along with Oregon State University’s College of Education and TERC, a Boston-based nonprofit math and science research center.
And the Y in the equation? More math literacy for more kids that leads to more choices.
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