Summer academy promotes math for black high school students

Over the years, teachers and administrators in the Charlottesville and Albemarle public schools noticed that few African-American boys enrolled in algebra classes in the eighth grade.e figure. That put them behind the path to college and possible careers in science, technology, engineering or math, and it gave birth to a civic group called 100 black men from Central Virginia. The head of the education committee is retired teacher Rickey White.

“Teachers and administrators make decisions about which classes to take students in, and if they don’t know, if parents don’t know the abilities of the students, students will often be overlooked,” he explains.

So this summer, 100 black men offered students a free intensive course called M-Cubed, short for Math, Men and Mission.

virtual reality

M-Cubed Academy students experiment with virtual reality headsets as part of a systems engineering class.

Today, the kids are trying out virtual reality headsets and learning about systems engineering from a professor at UVA. On other days, they do various hands-on activities and experiments that emphasize the importance of math.

“We teach them the math they’re going to learn next year to give them a bit of a head start, so when they come into the classroom, they don’t get put off by new concepts and ideas,” said Daniel Fairley, president of 100 Black Men.

The program also works to instill a positive mental attitude towards school and life.

“We have a saying within the group: good, better, best! Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best. Rickey White says. We say, ‘Hey, if you find yourself sinking in your attitude and your work, you need to learn how to at least switch to good, then better, then best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is the best.”

And Fairley says organizers want students to meet colored education professionals.

“Our model at 100 Black Men of Central Virginia is: What they see is what they will be. Very few of them have really black male teachers. I’m someone with a master’s degree in education, and I’ve never had a black male teacher in my life from kindergarten to my master’s degree,” he recalls.

Here, students have that opportunity and are introduced early to academics who are enthusiastic about their field.

“We now introduce our students and put them in front of professors, put them in front of people who have PhDs and understand math at a very different level than what they learn in school,” Fairley says.

The M-Cubed credo promises: we never fail, because we never give up. We never make excuses. We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and with integrity. We believe in ourselves and in each other. Talk to the kids and it’s clear that they are fully on board.

“They motivate you to do more than you think you can, and I’m really looking forward to next year,” says one child. “I’m happy to be with my African-American brothers and the teachers are very welcoming,” said another.

“The teachers push me to be better than I am now,” said another. “Not everyone can get this opportunity. It’s a privilege. I feel comfortable with my brothers and it’s just a great place.”

Rickey White says even more students will join the program this fall with free tutoring and instruction on how to market math.

“We actually pay students $25 to get in and learn about the stock market, to learn about saving, to learn about investing.”

But the extracurricular activities don’t stop there. Members of the Math-Cubed cohort will also meet professionals from many different fields – exposing them to the many career opportunities ahead.

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