Math Options program keeps career choices in the equation

Chancellor Melanie Hatch works with students.

Chancellor Melanie Hatch leads students in an origami project, applying mathematics to art in order to illustrate unique and creative uses for the subject during her Math Options workshop.

Credit: Steve Harmic

Middle school aged girls from throughout the region got a first-hand look at some math and science intensive career fields at Penn State DuBois recently.

Nearly 100 seventh grade girls from nine schools were introduced to careers and every day activities that require skills in mathematics and science during the annual Math Options program. The program is designed teach young girls how skills in these areas apply to a variety of real-world situations and rewarding careers.  The hope is that they stay interested in mathematics by learning about the opportunities and success that they can realize through its' use.  The program is aimed at the specific seventh grade female demographic because statistics show that they are at the greatest risk for losing interest in these essential subjects.

"Seventh grade is a time when girls' interest in these fields can start to fade," said Heather Parizek, an instructor in mathematics and geosciences at Penn State DuBois, as well as Math Options co-director.  "Social pressures to not enter these fields can also be a factor.  So, it's good for the girls to see women who are strong role models working in these fields."

The activities the girls participate in through Math Options are focused on areas including health, engineering, production, forensics, chemistry, biology, and more.  Volunteer instructors who work professionally in these fields guide the students through the activities. Their goal is to provide a fun, hands-on learning experience where the girls can apply math skills to solve problems or gather information.

Schools that participated in this year's program include Brockway, Brookville, Curwensville, DuBois Area, DuBois Area Catholic, Harmony, Johnsonburg, Kane, and Philipsburg-Osceola.