UH Math and STEM Outreach Program is Creating College-Bound ‘CHAMPS’

Program Targets High School Students in Underserved Communities Adjacent to UH

Math can be one of the most intimidating subjects for some high school students. The Cougars and Houston Area Math Program (CHAMP) at the University of Houston is trying to change that.

“Often times, the biggest obstacles to graduation are scores on the standardized tests in Texas, and it is often the math scores that are the lowest,” said Mark Tomforde, CHAMP program creator and associate professor of math in the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM).

CHAMP focuses on the underserved communities around the University, teaching lessons and offering small group tutoring to students from Hope Academy, a Houston Independent School District charter high school in Houston’s Third Ward.

“We want students to see math as problem solving and to think critically,” Tomforde said. “We want them to come up with their own methods and different ways of solving problems, and we want them to be able to communicate their solutions effectively.”

UH student volunteers teach a lesson to Hope Academy students every Monday and offer small group tutoring on Wednesdays.

“They make you think harder and open up your eyes to the real world,” said Tajon Sullivan West, a Hope Academy student.

“It is exciting to see the light bulb go off for them — to interact with them and have students go to the board and explain to the rest of the students what they discovered and what they did,” added UH student volunteer Sarah Chehade.

CHAMP’S main goals are to help students graduate from high school, attend college and consider pursuing a STEM major— science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The program is already producing positive results. The year before CHAMP started, only two out of 18 graduates from Hope Academy enrolled in college. Last year, 18 out of 20 graduates enrolled in college classes.

“It has assisted in establishing a college-bound culture with a population of students who normally do not attend,” said Hope Academy Superintendent Andre Mathews.  “In addition, it has motivated students to excel in the field of mathematics by eliminating the fear through positive teacher and mentor interaction and small group settings.  Most importantly, CHAMP has changed the instructional setting for teaching at-risk youth by minimizing the lecture time and maximizing teacher-student communication about the student's learning process.

“They get to see UH students who are much like them or maybe just a year or two older. It really helps cement in their minds that this is a realistic option for them, and it is something that they can achieve if they work at it,” added Tomforde.

To learn more about CHAMP, visit http://www.math.uh.edu/champ/.