Fullerton: Project MISS is a STEM Gateway for Girls
Project Mathematics Intensive Summer Session (MISS), now in its 23rd summer, is a voluntary four-week summer program, designed to help underrepresented high school girls succeed in college preparatory mathematics at the Algebra II level and above. Dr. David Pagni, award-winning professor of mathematics who founded the program in 1990, started Project MISS to address the nationwide concern for the shortage of young people choosing careers in STEM-related fields. Designed particularly to serve female students, where the shortage was particularly acute, 98 percent of Project MISS girls graduate from high school and enroll in college, with many attending CSU campuses. Thirty-four percent choose to attend CSU Fullerton (CSUF) with approximately 20 percent pursuing a major in a STEM discipline.
In 2010, before-and-after tests of math competency showed that MISS students demonstrated a 93 percent gain in content knowledge. Dr. Pagni shares in a 2010 article for CSUF news, "Mathematics is the gateway to the sciences, technology and engineering, as well as business and law, so if they can grasp mathematics, many career worlds open up to them."
Assigned to teams of four for the duration of the month, students have the opportunity to build collaborative and group learning skills. Classroom learning is reinforced with outside math-related activities, including relay races, hands-on activities like building towers out of marshmallows and scavenger hunts on the CSU Fullerton campus. Students attend class five days a week and receive six hours of mathematics instruction each day. Dr. Pagni brings in guest speakers-all successful women in business, education, industry, medicine, law, etc. to stress the importance of learning math and utilizing self-discipline during high school and college. The guest speaker component was not always a part of the program, but having 6-8 speakers per summer has become a significant addition, illustrating the connection between math and STEM-related careers.
In 2008, the university was awarded a six-year, $7.9 million U.S. Department of Education grant for the GEAR UP program. Support from GEAR UP and donations from local corporate foundations fund the MISS program.* Faculty and staff members from the Student Affairs Division and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics also provide support.
Project MISS volunteers and instructors are all female. CSUF students participating in this service-learning opportunity act as tutors, mentors, and instructors alongside Dr. Pagni and math teachers from local schools. After the summer session ends, Project MISS tracks student progress in mathematics and CSUF students are placed as tutors in some of their schools. It is evident that the experiences in Project MISS are lasting. Students who were in the program as high school students became service learners themselves as college tutors and eventually MISS instructors.
*Fluor, Southern California Gas, Southern California Edison, Beckman Coulter Foundation, Norton by Symantec, Allergan Foundation, and MAA Tensor Program also support Project MISS.
involving early interest in engineering and math:
CSU Fullerton's project Mathematics Intensive Summer Session (MISS), now in its 23rd summer, is a voluntary four-week summer program, designed to help underrepresented high school girls succeed in college preparatory mathematics at the Algebra II level and above.
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