By Jackie Stone

The Cove Herald

S.C. Lee Middle School student Destinee Branch knew the Pythagorean theorem before she went to Math Camp at Central Texas College, but it was just a theory.

Her camp teachers from the Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts showed the 13-year-old how the mathematical formula for calculating the length of a side of a right triangle applied to designing a house.

On Tuesday morning, the class used that knowledge as they trooped out to a hill overlooking the CTC campus and laid out with colored twine and wooden stakes on the grass the blueprint of a two-bedroom house.

"At first it was (boring), because he was explaining stuff like the pythagorean theorem. But now it's fun," Branch said.

Making the connections between classroom lectures and practical application is what the three-week Math and Science Camp hosted at CTC is about. The final week begins Monday.

Robert Burns, a curriculum specialist at Eastern Hills Middle School in Killeen, was one of the teachers of Branch's class of soon-to-be eighth graders from Copperas Cove and Killeen. The practical lessons they learned in their "construction" class were geared to apply to eighth grade algebra.

"I think they're getting more from it than by sitting in a class doing worksheets," Burns said.

Other classes in the Math and Science Camp and related Avid program at CTC prepared students for eighth grade math and pre-AP science as well as high school pre-AP math and science classes, said Pam Carter Kirschner, advanced academic specialist with Killeen Independent School District.

All the classes were free to students and fully funded by a state grant through CTC.

Each camp group used different projects to illustrate the skills they would need. A group heading into their sophomore year studied geometry, algebra and the environment by planning and building scale suspension bridges. Another group studied science through a mock-crime scene investigation.

The practical application helps teachers bridge the important gap between teaching and using knowledge, and allows them to expand the subject matter beyond the obvious, Kirschner said.

"Going into the 11th grade, we're working on a project with amusement park rides. Tons of physics, environmental impact, and even bringing in the physiological aspects of people being on a roller coaster and not having too much G force," she said.

Burns said his construction class also learned the biological angles of landscape design and the economic aspects of getting measurements right the first time as a construction crew.

"If you have to start over, time is money," he said. "I ask them, 'Who's going to pay for that?'"

Serena Villa, an S.C. Lee Middle School student from Copperas Cove, said at first, she dreaded coming to the math camp her parents had signed her up for over the summer. She said she had heard a lot about how more girls are needed in math and science careers.

Having fun using math in the past two weeks has made that seem more possible, Villa said Tuesday.

"Now it feels like I can do it," she said.

Contact Jackie Stone at or (254) 501-7474.

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