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Morris Richardson / The Detroit
Ingram, right, helps Marwa Hojeij work out an advanced algebra
center challenges math students Gifted kids get
chance to stretch their knowledge
Robert Alan Glover / Special to The Detroit
Morris Richardson / The Detroit News
Lai answers a question in his integrated systems technology
class. The center caters to high
Math scores * Michigan fares better than several
states in eighth-grade math and science scores, but that's still
not saying much. U.S. pupils lag behind their counterparts in
Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. *
The United States even trailed students in such nations as
Bulgaria and Latvia, according to results this year from the Third
International Mathematics and Science Study.
* Michigan students scored an average of 517
on the mathematics portion of the test, better than randomly
selected groups in Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts and other states,
but well behind students in Singapore, where students posted an
average of 604. Source: Third International
Mathematics and Science Study
-- Marianne Mousigian can't quite define why she likes math so much, but
working through problems and finding answers appeals to the
ninth-grader. "There is something about working
with numbers that makes it just click for me," said Mousigian, a
14-year-old at Dearborn High School. She and 71
other Dearborn Public Schools freshmen now are getting the chance to
stretch their knowledge of sines and cosines, corollaries and a host of
other lessons at the recently opened Dearborn Center for Math, Science
and Technology. The morning program is a
collaborative effort between the school system and Henry Ford Community
College. It is designed to give gifted students the opportunity to learn
at an accelerated pace and get a leg up on the competition.
This year's incoming freshmen stay in the program
throughout their four years in high school.
"Members of the school board and administration
wanted to provide an academic challenge to students who were already
high achievers," said Herm Boachim, program director of the center at
the Dearborn Heights campus of the community college on Ann Arbor Trail
and Outer Drive. Modeled after similar operations
in Sterling Heights and Utica, the experimental program pulls students
from their schools from 7:45 a.m. to 10:20 a.m., then returns them by
bus to regular classes. Some 150 students applied for the opportunity.
"All the applicants are high achievers in math and
science and also scored well on standardized tests," Boachim said.
The center boasts a Dell computer for each student
and labs for physics and chemistry. Students study in three groups of
24. The initiative comes amid continued worries
about Michigan students' performance in math and science. Although the
state scored better than several others in the Third International
Mathematics and Science Study released earlier this year, the United
States still lags far behind scores in such nations as Singapore, South
Korea, Japan and even Latvia. The math portion,
Boachim said, "is typical of how the program works, with the instructor
emphasizing Internet use and projects work."
"Academic expectations for students are that they
will progress through the program in terms of learning and
presentation," Boachim said. "They will not just do a book report, but
put their research back out into the community."
Math instructor Andrea Lazarski, an eight-year
employee of Dearborn Public Schools, said many of her students are
college-bound and interested in careers in medicine or science. Her
program uses hands-on learning. Dave Tucker, who
teaches integrated systems management, said his students "use advanced
technology to work on the math problems they are given. It is a nice
extension of math and science." "One long-term
goal is to have students create a Web site and do everything from making
a video to editing photos," Tucker said. "Hopefully, by their senior
year, they will do advanced programs such as making and using our own
software." The center isn't all about theories and
calculations, however. Instructors are careful to make students work
together to solve problems, so personality and teamwork is important.
"You need to be advanced to be in (the program),
but you also have to get along with people and be outgoing when it's
needed, as well as working by yourself," Mousigian said.
Mousigian said her teachers "know their subjects
really well, something that is quite obvious, and our technology teacher
Mr. Tucker is really well-liked and laid back. He gets us to relax."
Tommy Skinner, 14, of Dearborn Heights, said he
gets the best of both worlds -- math, science and technology in the
morning, then high school in the afternoon, while also learning a lot
from his peers. "I know I'm working with the best
and brightest," Skinner said.
Robert Alan Glover is a Metro Detroit