Math is the answer

In the Baltimore Sun, columnist Gregory Kane profiles a black engineering professor who’s turning inner-city kids on to math. “Most of the Ph.D.s in math are going to foreign students,” says Charles Johnson-Bey. He’s coaching Team America.

Last week, for the third consecutive year, the 38-year-old electrical engineering professor at Morgan held his one-week math, science and engineering summer camp for 5- to 10-year-olds.

In five short days, Johnson-Bey taught the kids how to read their electric meters at home, how to build circuits and create a programmable robot to do basic movements, how to build a miniature flying saucer. He gave them a rudimentary familiarity with Ohm’s law and had them write a short play and program it into a computer to generate a short animated video.

And there were the 25 math problems Johnson-Bey gave the 13 children in the program for homework. It’s Johnson-Bey’s way of getting Americans ready to answer the challenge of Team China and Team Japan.

“I want to show them the application of math in everything they do,” Johnson-Bey said. “I’m trying to get the kids excited about math.”

Johnson-Bey is a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a mostly black public school that’s one of the top-scoring schools in Maryland. Calculus is a required class at Poly.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Now get those kids into apprenticeships as well as into colleges. A journeyman electrician may make more than an electrical engineer [alas!] and will assuredly enter a field where competence is the key. AS for academic rigor, I would put the apprentice program up against most college programs. Of course, the social life is not the same.

  2. Note that he comes at math from the applications side. Maybe there’s a message there.

  3. z1975ss says:

    My own personal example of application vs. academic–

    I mastered trigonometry in my Senior Physics class dealing with trajectory and vectors. Not in my Junior Trigonometry class.