August 6, 2014

SummerUp gives high school grads a chance to advance in math, enter college

UC Merced program helps students with math classes so they can transfer.

The SummerUp program underway at UC Merced will help new college students overcome a major obstacle – passing critical mathematics classes that will allow them to transfer to four-year colleges or universities.

Fourteen recent graduates from Merced, Golden Valley, Atwater, Livingston and Los Banos high schools are in the midst of a six-week class at the university taught by John Montoya, lead professor of mathematics at Merced College and who also teaches part time at the university.

SummerUp classes end Aug. 7, just in time for many students who start college classes four days later.

Montoya said probably the biggest problem his students exhibit is low self-confidence in their math skills. They are much better than they realize but need to know more about the study skills that will be required on the college level.

“We’re giving them a lot of enrichment on how to be successful,” Montoya said. “They need help forming good study skills and how to form study groups and work with each other as a team.”

Taking a test, of course, is a singular matter, but working together beforehand to master difficult math concepts is accepted and encouraged, Montoya said. He gives students worksheets to strengthen their math skills.

Kia Vue, assistant director of transfer initiatives for UC Merced’s Office of Admissions, oversees transfer programs serving the Merced region. She counsels students on college transfer procedures and works with them to determine appropriate math courses.

For instance, a nursing student would be better served by one math course, but someone entering engineering would need to take a different class, Vue said.

This is the first year the SummerUp program was offered. Vue said most students who take placement tests for junior college will not place in college-level math.

Vue said the SummerUp program essentially is a refresher course for the difficult algebra II class.

Candace McMurphy, a June graduate of Los Banos High School, said she passed the algebra II class but wasn’t very good at that subject. She said the SummerUp class will help her with a university transfer class.

McMurphy hopes to go to UC Santa Cruz and pursue computer science studies. She wants to work for Google or Microsoft in communications.

“This (class) definitely is preparing me for college-level math,” McMurphy said.

Dareny Barajas, a June graduate from Livingston High School, will go to Merced College this fall and hopes to transfer to UC Merced. She intends to pursue a career as a registered nurse.

Barajas said she missed the placement test for math by two or three points. She said she not only mastered difficult math concepts in algebra II in the summer class but also got information about college-level expectations and terminology.

Maria Sanchez, a UC Merced teaching assistant who is a fifth-year chemistry major, said she has seen dramatic improvement in the 14 SummerUp students. She particularly enjoys it when students finally understand difficult concepts.

The students also learned about financial aid resources and how to deal with college-university schedules, Sanchez said.

Due to graduate next spring with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she hopes to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.

SummerUp was offered to 350 students at UC campuses in Merced, Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara, targeting students who fall short of meeting UC or state university admissions criteria by only one course, typically a math class.

SummerUp includes classroom instruction, tutorial support, online courses, customized interventions and other support services to increase college-going rates.

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