Building their numbers at Graniterock’s Algebra Academy

Professor Nandini Bhattacharya helps students learn about slopes Tuesday at Graniterock’s Algebra Academy in Watsonville. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — One hundred and forty eighth graders are ratcheting up their math skills this week thanks to Graniterock’s Algebra Academy, which is celebrating its tenth year.

With 52 students hunkered down at their desks at Driscoll’s in Watsonville Tuesday, the remaining 88 kids were busy grinding their pencils with various equations, quizzes and algorithms thanks to a host of instructors from UC Santa Cruz and CSU Monterey Bay.

Christy Zepeda, Executive Director of the academy said she was glad to see the program get up and running.

“We’re especially excited this year because we are now in the tenth year of giving kids a big boost in math,” she said. “I was a middle school teacher and I saw firsthand how some kids needed that extra hand, whether that was kids that were really accelerated or the ones having a tough time. That’s what this program is great for — to reach out and get these students excited about algebra.”

In 2009, Graniterock CEO Bruce Woolpert wanted to find a way to give local students entering eighth grade a head start to the math classes they would be taking, thus paving their way to college.

Borne from that vision was Algebra Academy, where students spend a week of their summer break under the tutelage of college math professors and graduate students, and where fun is the rule. 

The students spend six hours per day in lessons, but also participate in games and demonstrations that include math “magic” tricks.

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Eleanor Guaracha works through a lesson in slopes. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

To be a part of the program, students filled out an application and went through an interview process that included their parents and caretakers. 

That was a way to gauge their commitment to the newly added year-round aspect of the program, which includes working field trips to universities, school-based math clubs and an end-of-the-year math festival at each school, Jeffrey said.

The weeklong session began Monday at Graniterock’s corporate office in Watsonville and at Driscoll’s.

“It’s amazing to think of all the students that have come through this program and to think of where they are today,” said Rose Ann Woolpert of Graniterock's Board of Directors. “These kids are our future. We need more of this, to keep reaching out into our community for more partners.

Eighth grader Giselle Morris of the Hollister Dual Language Academy said, “I really like it. It’s really interesting, the instructors are good, I’m learning a lot and I’m making new friends. I always did well in math and always got Cs or better so I’m doing okay here. Maybe one day I can be an environmental scientist.”

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