CSUMB faculty give 8th graders a math boost in summer

Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy 2023 - Photo by Brent Dundore-Arias

Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy 2023 visit to CSUMB | Photo by Brent Dundore-Arias

September 5, 2023

By Walter Ryce

The Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy is a five-day immersion program in Watsonville for high-performing 8th-grade math students.

Part of that experience was to spend a day at CSU Monterey Bay where faculty members from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics had talks, exercises and activities ready for the middle schoolers. 

The purpose of that event is to introduce Algebra Academy participants to CSUMB and inspire them to pursue careers in mathematics, statistics, and science,” said Michael B. Scott, associate dean of the College of Science. 

The students visited the campus in August and got to meet and talk to two former Algebra Academy graduates — Oscar Murillo-Espinoza and Miguel Cancino-Perez — who majored in mathematics at CSUMB. 

“Algebra Academy started in 2010 when Bruce W. Woolpert, CEO/president of Graniterock, and CSUMB Professor Hongde Hu teamed up to bring it to students at Rolling Hills Middle School,” said Cynthia Bush, administrative support coordinator of CSUMB’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. 

Woolpert was a big proponent of algebra and pinpointed 8th grade as a crucial year to become engaged in it. After he passed, his wife, Rose Ann Woolpert, started shepherding the program forward with help from Christy Sessions as executive director of the academy. 

“We hope that the 8th graders will be challenged and learn to look at math in new ways,” Sessions said. “We also want to inspire them to study math and science in college, and to come back and work for local companies like Graniterock and Driscoll’s.”

In addition to their time with CSUMB faculty, the students got to eat lunch at the dining commons, built structures made of bubbles, played math games, and worked in small groups on projects involving fog collecting, the Makerspace, video games and shells in nature. 

“The kids all enjoyed the field trip,” Sessions reported. “It's always great to have them on campus [so] they can picture themselves attending CSUMB.”

The program, which is 14 years old, is fully funded by donation, but there is a Bruce Woolpert Scholarship available at CSUMB for Algebra Academy alumni who are math majors. So it’s free to the students, who come from Pajaro Valley, Hollister, Aromas-San Juan and Southside unified school districts.