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Dr. Brock & BC Math Workshop in New England Math Journal

Middle School Math Specialist Dr. Susanna Brock recently published an article in the New England Mathematics Journal about Berkeley Carroll's Math Workshop program.

The article, a summary of her doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University which she successfully defended in August, focuses on methods to reduce gaps in achievement, self-efficacy, and sense of belonging in math between high-ability boys and girls.

Research shows that girls are drastically underrepresented in the top 5 percent of achievement in math. One such method to reduce the gap at Berkeley Carroll is a math workshop in which fifth and seventh grade students participate in a once-per-cycle workshop with those of the same gender identity. The workshop is designed to promote all students' enthusiasm for and confidence about math, and honor the school's commitment to promoting gender equity.

After the workshop's pilot year in 2015-16, a standardized math test showed the seventh grade gender achievement gap reduced by approximately six percentile points compared to the year prior. However in fifth grade, differences were not statistically significant. Therefor, in an effort to dig deeper into the potential benefits of this type of intervention, the school administration decided to renew the program for a second year in 2016-17. In addition to data about the achievement gap in math scores, the pilot year workshop provided important lessons about communicating this type of gender-specific initiative to the school community.

The workshop's second year proved to be effective in further reducing the achievement gap between genders, especially for students in advanced classes. A survey of all Middle School students found that both boys and girls who were enrolled in the workshop expressed an increased sense of belonging in math. Interviews with participating girls showed an increased enjoyment of math class; a major theme being that they felt more confident participating and enjoyed collaborating with their friends in groups. Because of these results, the school offered interested seventh grade families the opportunity to enroll in an additional, all-girls pre-algebra section for the 2017-18 school year.

Dr. Brock also holds an A.B. from Harvard College in the history of science and a certificate in mind, brain and behavior studies. She earned her M.S. in neuroscience and education from Columbia Teachers College. She teaches eighth grade Algebra, a math problem-solving course for fifth and seventh grade students, and an upper school Algebra II course. She previously worked in a number of independent schools including Fairfield Country Day School, Greenwich Academy, and Hewitt.

Read more about Dr. Brock's work on the Johns Hopkins University website. If you have comments or questions about BC's Math Workshop or would like to read the full New England Math Journal article, contact Dr. Brock at sbrock@berkeleycarroll.org.