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Math Corps: Where love is exponential

By: Caitlin Cruickshank, program investment & marketing intern and Shelby Ripple, marketing intern

When you think of a typical childhood summer, you probably imagine kids sleeping in, hitting the beach, or riding bikes in the neighborhood. Certainly, you wouldn’t think of kids willingly and excitedly spending their summer at math camp. But, Math Corps – it proves quite the opposite because the love they receive there is exponential!

At first glance, Math Corps is a math camp, but its participants are devoted to it and the wide range of skills and connections it provides.

Each morning starts with students and instructors gathering in an auditorium and participate in an energetic roll call chant. This involves singing, dancing, and celebrating students’ achievements. Individual names of students are read of all students who scored well on the previous nights’ homework. There is an atmosphere of fun, love, and respect.

A series of hand gestures used by all Math Corps members creates a distinct culture. When someone is speaking, all individuals turn their heads and bodies toward the speaker to show respect. To show support to the speaker, students and instructors demonstrate a hand-rolling gesture. To show agreement, students use “jazz hands.” These gestures serve as symbols of the true support and encouragement that Math Corps members have for each other.

This six-week camp program uses a “kids teach kids” model, where high school students serve as paid teaching assistants and role models for the younger middle school students. College students, many of whom are Math Corps alumni, also engage in the program as paid college instructors. In 2022, The Children’s Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to Math Corps to support programming at the 2022 Summer Camp.

Math Corps students record improved performance in school, and the program boasts an impressive 95% high school graduation rate, with 90% of students attending college. This means Wayne State University satisfied its goal when it established the program in 1992 to help change bleak outcomes for Detroit Public School students who face many obstacles to success.

The camp reaches much deeper than math, though; it creates a sense of community. Students feel loved and cared for by the entire Math Corps family as one high school participant explained:

“The people at Math Corps are there through thick and thin, the bad times and good times, the times when you’re falling and think no one is there to catch you.  Corps is like your second mother or father, grandmother, or grandfather. Math Corps is always there.”

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