MathPOWER is summer learning program that provides classes based on the material students will learn the next academic year. The program also offers remediation based on material covered in the previous academic year for grades 6 through 10.

Key Takeaways

  • Student engagement is promoted through project-based learning.

  • Teachers are hired based on their pre-existing engagement skills.

  • Teacher Assistants go through training on how to build relationships with students.

  • Through relationships with the students, teachers and TA’s are able to determine the cause of disengagement and problem solve.

  • Engagement is encouraged through clear consequences for students that are continuously disengaged.

Q: What are two or three best practices for staff members seeking to promote student engagement during the program day?


A: For summer programs we look for opportunities for student movement, through various activities and by incorporating different modalities of learning. Secondarily, we incorporate projects that are really engaging in student life. For example, we have a student math fair where students created their own math carnival activity. Engagement is also promoted through student-staff relationships. Student staffing really enhances those relationships and promotes engagement.

Q: Did your program conduct pre-summer trainings? If so, how was student engagement addressed?


A: We did do pre-summer trainings, but we did not explicitly address our student engagement strategies. Our hiring practice is to pick people that we think have student engagement skills already. I observe all my teachers in the classroom, prior to hiring them, so that I have the opportunity to see them and their teaching style. I am looking for the percentage of time the teacher is leading the class versus when the students are leading the class or speaking. I want primarily student voice when I observe teachers in the classroom. For TA’s, it is a little bit different, our trainings primarily focused on how to ask questions without guiding the students too much. I’m using a book called Teach Like A Champion to structure my training. We are really looking for TA’s to promote engagement by turning over responsibility to the student through project-based learning.

Q: What program design measures allowed staff members to effectively promote student engagement?


A: By setting high expectations. This summer TA’s are going to have to include their questioning in their project so I have a chance to preview what they’re going to be doing with the students and give them strategies to help them get there. For teachers, we hire people who already have these skills. While we don’t have to do all the training for teachers, we will, as a program, have a fair for students to display projects to their parents, which serves as a push for project-based programming in the classes.

Q: If you have a student that is not as engaged, what strategies do you have to help them become so?


A: It really depends on knowing the student. What I really value my TA’s for is their ability to build relationships with the students. If a student is not engaged, the TA’s are able to determine why. It could be that students don’t understand the material, or possibly something happened before class. I rely on the smaller student-teacher ratio to allow us to have the conversations to ascertain why a student is acting the way they are, and then problem solve. And that will be part of the TA’s training. For Summer Learning Project students we are now able to leverage the schools better than we have in the past. If there is consistent disengagement, we have the school looped in to be aware of what’s going on so that we have clear consequences, such as having to work through lunch or club activities instead of participating.


MathPOWER’s Algebra Plus Summer Academy is a math camp that focuses on students going into grades 6-10. The program provides classes based on the material they will learn the next academic year and remediation based on material that they should have learned before, but based on their scores on their previous tests they haven’t learned yet. Then, in the afternoon, students participate in math-based enrichment activities run by our teaching assistants.