At MASTERthese, the main goal of the curriculum we offer to Title 1 schools is to improve the math, reading, and science skills of students that have previously given up on academic success due to repeated failures in their normal school system. The curriculum is based off of the research of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford and researcher in educational psychology, as well as numerous other educators, and designed to gain student interest in future STEM careers. The main way that MASTERthese has started to implement this curriculum is through the Smart in a Box project. The Smart in a Box starts students out with baseline math material, refining academic skills in multiple areas as the curriculum becomes normalized in the classroom. This normalization involves cooperation in the classroom between students and educators, as well as coordination with parents and administrators. The material values mistakes and growth, rather than the perfection of reading, math, and science skills of every single student. And it’s all real: the material that a classroom gets in a Smart in a Box is tangible. Administrators or teachers can purchase a Smart in a Box through MASTERthese and have the material shipped to their school, including instructions on how to get students started and course guidance. The boxes are designed to be effective for students of all performance levels, as well as affordable. Though the Smart is a Box is low cost, classrooms can input a profile on the MASTERthese profile page requesting funding or donations for a Smart in a Box. And, those who want to fund a classroom can donate through the same program. This way, every classroom should be able to use the curriculum.
In addition, the curriculum comes with incentives for the students. As students make progress, they are rewarded with “Smart Gear”, which includes stickers, t-shirts, and other fun small prizes. Though some of the Smart Gear can be purchased on the MASTERthese website for anyone, special edition Smart Gear will only be issued to participants in the Smart in a Box program. The idea is that students will be able to answer the question: “Can Smart Gear make you smart?”
Once the project is complete and curriculum has been implemented in a number of Title 1 schools, MASTERthese staff will be refining the curriculum to make it even more accessible and successful in the classroom. The staff will be working with the Cal State San Bernardino educational psychology research team to structure questionnaires and determine the impact of the curriculum on students. The questionnaires will allow MASTERthese to use feedback to refine the Smart in a Box material and develop it to better fit the needs of the specific students using it. The staff will also be working with the Cal State Long Beach Math Department collecting data for statistical analysis. The data collection will allow MASTERthese staff to quantify the success of the Smart in a Box material and continue to improve on it.
As Joseph Ingalls, program administrator for the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE), told the MASTERthese staff when discussing the project: “You can never stop learning!”. The MASTERthese staff takes this to heart – the goal is not only to improve the STEM and reading skills of students, but for educators and MASTERthese staff to learn more about the learning of students from the application of new curriculum. MASTERthese believes that the Smart in a Box project can do both of these things.