The Calculus Project began at Brookline High, in Massachusetts, a very high-performing district with a troubling achievement gap. Over 50% of white students scored in the advanced level in math, compared to 16% of African-American students and 31% of Latino students.
Few African-American, Latino, and low-income students enrolled in high-level math classes, and those who did enroll soon dropped down to lower levels.
Research shows the power of high school calculus in propelling students toward completing college, and increasing the number of students who study STEM disciplines.
The goal of the Calculus Project is to enable African American, Latino, and low-income students to enroll and succeed in the study of calculus in their senior year. To accomplish that, all seventh-grade students in these sub-groups were invited to engage in a series of focused innovations that continued through their senior year in high school. These included the following:
- Pre-teaching in the summer, and re-teaching/tutoring during the school year the full sequence of mathematics courses from grade 8 through grade 12.
- Intentionally populating high-level math classes with a critical mass of students of color and low-income students, creating a more comfortable and productive academic setting for these students.
- Developing after-school study groups with support from teachers. (The after-school supervised study groups often become student-created “beyond school” study groups, rarely seen with these historically underperforming students.)
- The Pride Curriculum teaches students about the historical accomplishments of STEM professionals of color, and includes interactions between the students and successful STEM professionals of color.
- Paid “peer teaching” opportunities in the summer program for high achieving Calculus Project students during the 11th and 12th grades.
- Transition-to-college planning, and follow-up academic and personal support for students at college.
Almost every student in Cohort I enrolled and succeeded in Calculus Honors and AP Calculus in their senior year of high school.
In June 2014, students in Cohort I graduated from Brookline High School and now attend some of the most competitive colleges and universities in the country, such as MIT, NYU, Duke, Emory, and Centre College. Some have already declared STEM majors.
Five more cohorts behind them are demonstrating similar success. In an increasingly technological world in which the STEM disciplines and careers offer tremendous intellectual and economic growth opportunities, the Calculus Project can open doors to this world to students for whom these doors have been historically closed.