Denver Math Fellows Build Confidence, Close Opportunity Gaps

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On a rare, warm day in the dead of winter, you would expect students to be begging for five extra minutes of recess.

At Maxwell Elementary School, students were actually begging their beloved ‘Miss Desiree’ for another five minutes of time on their math skills.

“After they’re done with lunch, don’t be surprised if they start knocking on the door asking to come in,” Miss Desiree (Notyce) said. “They will probably come running in here.”

Within just a few minutes, students began pounding at Notyce’s metal doors leading into her mobile classroom near the playground.

“What do you want to work on?” Notyce asks the five students, who are out of breath from presumably running across the campus.

“Fractions!” the kids yell in unison.

Notyce, a Denver Math Fellow, sees this kind of enthusiasm throughout the school day at Maxwell. As part of their daily schedule, students struggling in math get dedicated small group time with Notyce to help strengthen their foundational math concepts.

Clearly, math can be a lot of fun. But it can also be something ‘non-math people’ can grow to love. Notyce credits her ‘magic mirror,’ which she places in front of a student who is struggling with a problem she knows they can answer.

“It builds their confidence,” she said. “You have to get used to that positive self-talk. I ask them to look in the mirror and tell themselves that they are as creative, smart and beautiful as I know they are capable of being.”

Confidence can be a real super power when it comes to math. It’s one of the reasons why Notyce joined the Denver Math Fellows, a one-year fellowship supporting our highest needs students in Denver Public Schools (DPS).

“A lot of kids at the beginning of the year say, ‘I hate math. I am not good at math,'” Notyce said. “I want them to say, ‘I can do math. I am good at math, and I can be successful at math.'”

Notyce is one of more than 300 participating in the fellowship, which is in place at 55 DPS schools during the 2014-15 school year. Denver Math Fellows work closely with students throughout the year to develop their math skills while supporting what kids are learning in their regular daily math class.

The mission of the Denver Math Fellows program is to close the opportunity gap by providing small group math instruction for our highest need students in order to accelerate academic growth in preparation for college and career. Fellows come from across the United States to Denver to participate in this year of service.

After their commitment, fellows go on to continue their own education, lead a classroom or return to an expanded role with the math fellow program.

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