CWU hosts local middle schoolers for math festival - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

CWU hosts local middle schoolers for math festival

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ELLENSBURG, WA - Today, young math students from around the Yakima Valley are getting their first taste of college.

Central Washington University is hosting the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Math Festival, made up of hands-on math activities led by professors and mentors and a math competition designed to promote problem-solving skills that can aid in future careers.

Lori Mayfield, GEAR UP Site Director at Highland Middle School, says this event is particularly helpful to college hopefuls.

"They're not as anxious when it comes time to go into college," she says. "The math festival is a fun way to get the kids in our cohort, our GEAR Up cohort, to get to know each other, because eventually they will be going to college together, and they'll already have a friend."

She says although excited, most of her students attending the festival are worried about doing well in the math challenge test.

"Most of them are nervous about the math competition, and to help alleviate that anxiety, I just tell them, 'Let's just go and have fun, let's have the experience, and let's see what we can do when it's time for you to go to college."

Mariana Ramos, an 8th grade student attending the festival, says she has a special interest in math that was inspired by her brother and his pre-med studies.

"When he comes home to visit us, he talks about stuff and it kind of interests me, and I would like to do that as well," says Ramos.

She says she continues to have a passion for math thanks to one of her math teachers' attitude toward the subject.

"Our teacher is very...he understands. Like, if we do bad, he wants us to do better. He really, really makes us put a lot of effort in it."

Mayfield says for many students, this will be the opportunity that shows them they can achieve a collegiate career.

 "They just get more comfortable, and they're more apt to say, 'This is the college I'm gonna go to,' or 'I am gonna go to college.' It gives them more experience."

The math festival is funded by the Soar-3 grant, an $18 million STEM program grant serving schools all over eastern Washington.