Wednesday, August 14, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sines Of The Times -- Garfield Students Stimulated By Advanced Math

Chundranae Nicholson, 17, spent the summer learning more about sines and cosines.

She and 28 other Garfield High School students entrenched themselves within the red brick walls of Seattle Central Community College, 4 1/2 hours a day, five days a week for five weeks. They studied one or two semesters of math to skip a year of it or advance to a college preparatory or honors-level course.

"I like to be challenged, to keep on my toes," Nicholson said. She attended the program last year and learned the equivalent of one year of math. This year, she used it to help prepare for calculus - the most advanced math class the school offers - in the fall.

Garfield math teachers Jack Babani and Ginny Burton taught three levels of enriched math to next year's sophomores, juniors and seniors. They were assisted by two college-bound Garfield graduates who completed calculus this year.

Babani said the program was started last year to increase the ethnic diversity of math classes at Garfield. While 45 percent of Garfield students are members of minority groups, he said fewer than 10 percent in honors math classes are minorities. There are 27 African Americans and one Asian American in this summer's program.

There are three math levels, or tracks, in Seattle public high schools: an honors track that ends with calculus in the senior year; a middle track that includes precalculus material; and a lower track that isn't rigorous enough for entry into many four-year universities.

Students are tracked when they come out of middle school, said Babani, and there is no program during the school year that would allow them to jump to a higher track.

Eleven students in this year's class will have completed two semesters of math, according to Babani and Burton.

Babani said the program is not remedial, but rather is designed for "highly motivated students who want to accelerate or enrich their progress."

Nicholson, who will be senior class president and has been captain of the girls' track team for two years, wants to go to Columbia University, the University of Virginia or a black college on the East Coast. Besides helping her get into college, she thinks her math background will help her in her career.

"Right now, I want to be everything. I'm interested in computer science, marketing and business."

She said Babani served as an inspiration.

"He's energetic and puts so much time and effort into you," she said. "You see that he cares about you, and it makes me want to work and prove to myself that I can do it."

Burton said the concept of the class is similar to that in the movie "Stand and Deliver," which told the story of teacher Jaime Escalante. Escalante pushed his students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles to national prominence in advanced placement calculus.

"The idea is to do more math, and to tell kids they can do it," Burton said. "It's not a magical kind of formula, but they realize they can do better if they work hard and have your immediate attention and the support of their schoolmates."

Each student sat down with a teacher at least once each day and spent the rest of the class time working independently or in small groups.

While students will receive academic credit for their work this summer, there are no grades. As Nakia Walker, 17, said, "You set your own goal, and that's what you're aiming for."

The program runs on a shoestring budget of $16,000, gleaned from local education organizations and businesses, and had to turn away 15 applicants because there wasn't enough money, Burton said.

She and Babani would also like more money so they could offer one period a day to follow up on students' progress during the school year.

Seattle Central Community College, one of Garfield's Partners in Public Education (PIPE), donated the use of two classrooms and access to its computer lab, where students can graph equations.

Along with learning math, students tested the flight simulator at Boeing.

Guest speakers from the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm and Microsoft discussed how math contributed to their success.

Students also spur each other on to greater achievement.

In one room, a classmate grilled Daemon Harris, 16, on the table of squares, while across the hall Nicholson and her best friend Walker staked bets on who would do better on the evaluation test.

Said Nicholson with a smile, "That's good peer pressure."



-- To find out more about the Garfield Challenge Math Program, contact Program Manager Elizabeth Hawkins at 546-4600.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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