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University helps banish fears of math with free kids camp
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Math camp coach Veronica Chaidez teaches her students how to find the perimeter of an object by using a ruler at the second annual Math Camp at CSU Stanislaus. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

While some students are closing up the books and staying away from any type of learning this spring break, others are polishing up their math skills at the second annual Spring Math Camp at California State University, Stanislaus.

This year, 115 students from Stanislaus and Merced counties are part of a program offered by the CSU Stanislaus Math Department. The goal of the program is to provide concentrated math instruction for students in grades 3 to 6.

“The goal is to get the students excited about math,” said CSU Stanislaus math professor Viji Sundar. “This math camp is not conventional. The students are learning math through games, from each other and everywhere around them."

Attendance is free and voluntary, but Sundar said that the students appreciate the math camp.

“Part of learning, is overcoming the fear of math, something which often plagues students, parents and even teachers,” said Sundar. “The math camp is centered on a fun-first teaching philosophy that incorporates games and fun activities rather than the standard lecture.”

Students were clearly excited to learn math during Tuesday's camp. When Sandra Santini brought her daughter Nya for her first math camp on Monday, she was hesitant her daughter was not going to like the experience.

“She was very nervous the first day,” said Santini.  “After the first day she loved it so much that she begged me to take her an hour early the next day. I love to see her excited. It’s great to see the university is providing such wonderful opportunities for our children.”

Aspiring teachers who run the camp go through 16 hours of training in order to learn the various avenues to reach young minds.

“Every kid can learn, but it is up to the teacher to find the way the student learns best. A good teacher can change to fit the child. A lot of people’s math fear starts in grammar school when a teacher became frustrated with them. We want to break that fear and help the student gain confidence to ask questions and learn from mistakes,” said Sundar.