Wichita, KS -- Local Raytheon Aircraft Company employees are rallying around math education as part of its parent Raytheon Company's new national program, MathMovesU. This is a first-of-its-kind program by the company set up to excite middle school students about math, highlighting the real-life possibilities skills in math can deliver. Raytheon Company is providing an annual $1 million in MathMovesU grants that will fund classroom help for teachers; provide grants to teachers, college students, and schools doing great things with math education; and offer scholarships to students who write in on the Web to tell how they would make math cooler.
Raytheon Company has over 80,000 employees worldwide, employing almost 40,000 engineers and a multitude of others who use math daily. Raytheon Aircraft Company employs 576 engineers and others who rely on strong math skills, including 536 in Wichita and 40 in Little Rock. But the number of American students pursuing math degrees and careers is declining.
"We've got a crisis on our hands in this country," says Raytheon Aircraft Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schuster: "The United States ranks 24th out of 29 countries in math literacy, and jobs requiring math are increasing four times faster than overall job growth. Raytheon Company has opted to do something to help improve that situation. A significant amount of the work at Raytheon Aircraft Company and much of the local Wichita economy are based on jobs requiring math. We need to reach the future engineers and scientists in our community. With this program, we want to engage middle school students and keep them interested in math."
Raytheon Aircraft Company has been involved in math and science initiatives locally for many years. Employees volunteer at local schools through ongoing tutoring, speeches at schools and assistance with many math and science programs. One example is BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology), a robotics program where mentors work amongst more than a dozen local high schools who each place 8-12 students on a competitive team. These teams compete in the regional and State Science Olympiad program. This year Wichita is sending two schools to the national Science Olympiad competition in Bloomington, Ind.
Another example is the tutoring and mentoring currently in place with AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college prep program designed for students who have the potential, but who traditionally may not see college as a possibility. The students receive support from college tutors and are encouraged to become leaders in the school and community. Raytheon Aircraft Company will be awarding a four-year college scholarship to a deserving student in the very near future.
Yet another example is the West High School Engineering Program where Raytheon Aircraft Company employees provide technical guidance and support on projects. Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a program that has developed a sequence of courses which, when combined with college preparatory mathematics and science courses in high school, introduces students to the scope, rigor and discipline of engineering and engineering technology prior to entering college. Students participating in PLTW courses are better prepared for college engineering programs and more likely to be successful, thus reducing the attrition rate in college programs.
To turn math’s image around and excite sixth, seventh and eighth graders about math, Raytheon Company has enlisted a group of celebrities who aren’t the usual math education type. Skateboard legend Tony Hawk, soccer star Mia Hamm, basketball greats Bill Russell and Lisa Leslie, and BMX bike champ Dave Mirra are on board with MathMovesU not only to grab the students' attention, but also because they all have careers with a math connection. On mathmovesu.com, students can work on real-world applications of math, such as calculating the degrees of turn Tony Hawk needs to complete a signature trick, or the average points per game scored by Lisa Leslie.
MathMovesU also highlights other cool careers that rely on math, like a concert tour manager, fashion designer, video game creator, roller coaster innovator, and ER doctor.
While MathMovesU is most certainly a math education program, it's not based in the classroom but on the internet, where middle school students get their entertainment and information. At mathmovesu.com, middle school students can win awards by answering math questions related to the MathMovesU celebrities' careers.
To help understand the middle school mindset, Raytheon Company conducted a national survey of students grades six through eight. The study found that most American middle school students would rather clean their rooms, eat their vegetables, take out the garbage or go to the dentist than sit down with their math homework. Yet these same sixth to eighth graders say they want to do better in math (67 percent) and that doing well in math is important to them (94 percent). The vast majority of middle school students surveyed report that they would be more interested in math if they learned about celebrities (79 percent) or were shown how people in music, sports and video games use math in their jobs (81 percent).