Math + Camp = Fun

Article Published: Jun. 20, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 20, 2013
Math + Camp = Fun

At ASU’s Math Camp, students earn points throughout the week by answering questions correctly and achieving tasks as a team. At the end of the week, the highest scoring team wins a trophy, and every camper walks away with an award.

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Spending a few summer nights at math camp may not be a student’s dream.

But Appalachian State University’s Math Camp has kids and parents coming back every year.

For the past 16 years, Anita Kitchens, a math professor at ASU, has used the summer camp to share her innovative method of teaching with students.

While teaching developmental math, a class designed for college students who are behind in mathematics, Kitchens realized that her students were struggling because they lacked confidence and were approaching math the wrong way.

“What most people decide who have a little trouble is ‘I’m not good at this,’” Kitchens said. “Everyone has had those types of experiences. You’ll get there.”

She wanted to turn students around before they got to this point.

“I want them to realize that they never had a problem; it was just a little stumbling block,” Kitchens said.

After picking her daughter up from basketball camp one day, Kitchens thought of a way to merge the excitement and liveliness of athletic camp with her lessons about math.

“They help them learn what they need for school without making them feel like they’re in summer school,” said Susan Weinberg, who has two students participating in the program. “I don’t know how they do it, but they always make it fun.”

Instead of sitting in desks filling out math work sheets or listening to lectures, as one might picture math camp to be, students and counselors are constantly moving around to different stations and competing for points.

“They do a great job with making the kids enthusiastic,” Weinberg said.

Upon arrival, Kitchens and her staff determine which students are struggling with math, exceeding at math and are average at math, along with how each student learns and whether they are more creative or technical. With this assessment, Kitchens can ensure that each team has a mix of every type of student.

“If you mix the kids up, that’ll give the kids an opportunity to learn about themselves,” said Noah Hughes, camp counselor and senior math major at ASU.

ASU students are employed as counselors, or coaches, and lead campers to each station, assisting them in earning points for their teams.

Points are earned throughout the week by answering questions correctly and achieving tasks as a team. At the end of the week, the highest scoring team wins a trophy, and every camper walks away with an award.

“They’ve earned them,” Kitchens said. “By the end of the week, you can see that people have learned something.”

Not only can struggling students learn better ways to approach math, but they also gain confidence by discovering that everyone learns in different ways.

“That’s the main thing math camp will give them: self-knowledge, realizing that if you’re struggling, it’s technique, not lack of ability,” Kitchens said.

Exceptional math students can also benefit from this camp.

Patricia Whitley sends her two sons, who have always done well in math, to camp every year.
“(Kitchens) is amazing,” Whitley said. “She has a great view of mathematics.”

She describes Kitchens’ ideas as “cutting edge” and credits camp for helping her oldest son, Josh, a rising junior in high school, to get into a graduate student shadowing program with the chemistry and bimolecular engineering department at Clemson University.

“It caters to a broad spectrum of people,” Josh Whitley said.

With enthusiastic coaches, meals donated by local restaurants and applicable lessons, Kitchens’ math camp is a highly anticipated summer activity for many kids from across North Carolina and surrounding states.

The 16th annual Math Camp will be held July 8 to 11 from 6 to 11 p.m. in ASU’s Walker Hall. All rising sixth through 12th graders are welcome. Registration is $120 per person and includes dinner each night.

Special rates are available at multiple hotels and campgrounds for out-of-town participants.

To register, email ( , call (828) 262-8718 or visit

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