Math professor Priscilla Bengo smiles in a headshot, seen from the shoulders up. She has black hair cut into a bob

Humber College is hosting a free, six-week math camp for Grade 8 and 9 girls from underrepresented communities. 

Priscilla Bengo, a math professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Innovative Learning, developed a distinct curriculum for the Humber Math Camp for Girls, which she also teaches. 

“For some time now, math researchers have noted that girls sign off math as early as Grade 4 and don’t want anything to do with it,” she said. 

“If you ask a Grade 5, 6, 7 to describe what a mathematician does, very few can tell you.” 

The Tensor Women & Mathematics Award from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) helped fund the course, awarding Bengo and Humber’s Math department $7,800. Humber was the only Canadian institution on the winner’s list. The project also received support from the Humber College Community Partnership Fund

Humber student mentors 

It is Humber’s second year running the camp, but the original co-ed curriculum has been completely revamped and focuses on girls only. MAA provides a framework and specific criteria for the course, aiming to improve the rate of girls persisting in math in post-secondary schools and into their careers. 

“The grant tries to address specific issues that girls face. We have to have activities in which students are mentored by undergrads, Humber students and females,” said Bengo. 

Students are divided into groups to promote conversation and collaboration, which help them grasp complex concepts. They also spend an hour each week learning about universities and colleges and exploring career options. In addition, current Humber math students will guide participants through the course and show them how to navigate post-secondary education in a panel presentation. 

Recognizing the need for support in their future career search, Humber’s Community Outreach and Workforce Development department will connect the participants to Humber Career Finder and other postsecondary tools that will help them long-term. 

'Diverse students do belong in those careers'

Program organizers assert that to succeed or even pursue a career in mathematics, students must see themselves reflected in the industry. 

The students, many of whom are South Asian or Black, learn about real-life mathematicians and will hear from diverse guest speakers who share some of the same experiences they go through. 

“We know diversity really breeds creativity and innovation,” said Mona Nouroozifar, Associate Dean of Humber’s Mathematics, Research Skills & Analysis department. 

“We’re really heightening their awareness that diverse students do belong in those careers.” 

The students in the course were provided with a refurbished laptop to help them access digital learning and will keep the computers after the six weeks. Humber College and program organizers will also continue to support the participants by inviting them back to campus for the 2022 International Women’s Day celebration.