This Month at Graniterock: The Fifth Annual Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy

Posted by Keith Severson on Mar 18, 2015

As California’s economy improves and business hiring increases, employers are looking for people with technical skills in engineering, science and technology to fill new job openings.  Yet, many of these career opportunities are lost to California job seekers. Too many of our high school graduates are not adequately prepared for college level mathematics and unable to master basic math and algebra required for the workforce. An estimated 80 percent of community college students need remedial math and 50 percent of students entering the California State University system require remedial math. 

In 2010, Graniterock CEO Bruce W. Woolpert decided to do something about the problem. In collaboration with CSUMB Mathematics Chair Hongde Hu, he invited eighth grade students from Watsonville’s Rolling Hills Middle School to Graniterock’s Corporate Office for a five-day algebra immersion course. Since his death in 2012, the Algebra Academy has been dedicated to honoring his vision.

Today’s BWW Algebra Academy is a year-round program which serves 110 students from seven schools in three counties. It includes a week of algebra immersion in the summer, instruction by university professors and teaching assistants, introduction to  careers that require mathematics, university field trips and middle school Math clubs to sustain momentum during the school year.

The Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy inspires middle school students to excel in mathematics. Business, education and the community collaborate to offer students educational experiences in algebra and advanced math. Students are given exceptional math instruction from university professors, motivation to achieve from educators and business professionals and a clear direction to follow in order to realize their dreams of future careers in science, engineering and technology.

With the support of many generous individuals and corporate partners, including Driscoll’s Berries, Wells Fargo Bank and Littler Mendelson LLP, the Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy has grown so that this year it includes

  • University of California Santa Cruz and California State University Monterey Bay as academic partners

  • School year Math clubs to sustain student  learning and to develop a culture of mathematics excellence in participating schools, with working field trips to CSUMB and  UCSC and school Math festivals

  • In collaboration with UCSC and the  Bay Area Math Project, a National Science Foundation Noyce Grant to place Cal Teach interns as Math Club assistants

  • An admissions process which encourages excellence and creates a cohesive class of Algebra Academy peers

  • Follow up and evaluation of Algebra Academy graduates to survey the effect of the program on academic development

  • An Algebra Academy Coordinator, who is an essential link between Graniterock, three school districts and two universities

  • The website and Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy Facebook page

Over the next few years, there are plans to invite additional schools from Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties and to double student enrollment.  We will ask more businesses and colleges to join the effort as the Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy becomes a model program for advancing student achievement in mathematics.

Academy graduates show improved test scores, take higher level math courses in high school and are more likely to enroll in college and pursue STEM disciplines. If you are inspired by our students’ success, we welcome tax deductible contributions.  The Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy is a California 501c3 non-profit corporation located at 350 Technology Drive, Watsonville, CA 95076.

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