College math program targets high school girls

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Starting today, for seven hours a day, during the next six weeks, girls from Orange County high schools will embrace their inner math geek. They're taking part in the Mathematics Intensive Summer Session - aka Project MISS - at Cal State Fullerton.

Fullerton math professor David Pagni helped start the program two decades ago. "Because there weren’t enough girls at that time in the so-called stem majors – science, technology, you know, engineering and mathematics," he said.

High school girls stumbled in math. That kept many from going to college. In Project MISS, girls study material they’ll see in high school math, such as square roots and quadratic equations. Small study groups and peer tutoring aim to build confidence through competence.

Pagni said high school math teachers rave about the improvement they see after students have finished the program. "They find the students actually participating more in class, which seems like a small change, but to me that shows that they now have developed some confidence in their ability to do the mathematics," he said.

Pagni noted another measure of success – about a third of the students who take the summer math course end up enrolling at Cal State Fullerton.