NMC launches ‘Project Be a Mathematician’


Jennifer-Eilleen Castro, right, program manager from Northern Marianas College-University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, recently met with Dr. Hye-Jin Park, left, and Dr. Kiriko Takahashi, second from left, from the University of Hawaii Manoa-Center on Disabilities Studies who are the principal investigators of Project Be a Mathematician. Photo includes Reo Arriola, second from right, vice principal of Dandan Middle School. (NMC)

The University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Northern Marianas College, through a grant sub-award from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is launching a pilot project on Saipan called Project Be A Mathematician or Project BEAM.

Dr. Kiriko Takahashi and Dr. Hye-Jin Park, principal investigators for Project BEAM from the Center on Disability Studies at UH Manoa, were recently on island to meet with Jennifer-Eilleen E. Castro, UCEDD program manager at NMC, to lay the groundwork in order to begin the implementation of the project.

The goal of Project BEAM (BE A Mathematician) is to scale up and evaluate a model designed to increase the number of middle school Native Hawaiian, Native American, Pacific Island, and Hispanic students identified as “mathematically promising.” To contribute to research advancement and practice for promising indigenous students and sustain the efforts beyond the five-year funding period, the project hopes to create a university-based gifted education program for indigenous and Hispanic students.

Park, Takahashi, and Castro met with Public School System interim commissioner Glenn Muña, associate commissioner Jackie Quitugua, and Math Program coordinator Lizabeth Hofshneider to provide information about Project BEAM, and to request for PSS’ assistance in piloting the program with Saipan’s middle schools.

The program aims to achieve a number of student outcomes, which include: attitude (attitudes toward math, math anxiety, sense of responsibility and excellence); cultural competence (sense of belonging and place); behavior (math engagement, characteristics of mathematically talented students); academic outcomes (algebra achievement, real-world math application ability, enrollment in a gifted math program or club at middle school and a high school Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) honors certificate program), and STEM identity development. During the meeting, two middle schools on Saipan were identified to participate in this pilot program: Hopwood Middle School and Dandan Middle School.

“We’re all very excited about this project, which will help our students see the joys of math, and hopefully encourage them to go into STEM fields” said Castro. “We are fortunate to have so much support from NMC, PSS, and UH Manoa.”

Initial meetings were held with vice principals Reo Arriola of DMS and Victor Borja of HMS to get assistance with identifying students who may be able to participate in the program. The after-school and Saturday program will run for 10 weeks per semester, with 15 students per middle school receiving a total of 50 hours of additional learning support.

The program also includes parent and community workshops to facilitate additional support. Also discussed was the possibility of an intensive two-week math summer camp for middle school students. (NMC)

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