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Melania Alvarez (centre) plays math games with students during a free math mentorship program staffed by SFU volunteers.

Math mentorship helps aboriginal children

December 3, 2009

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It’s a gloomy day in Vancouver’s inner city, but the faces of more than a dozen aboriginal children shine brightly as they play a math board game with Melania Alvarez in a free math mentorship program.

Alvarez, an SFU doctoral student in education and the B.C. education coordinator at the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), created the program, which is sponsored by PIMS.

Last fall, she recruited SFU senior math lecturer Veselin Jungic to help launch the after-school program at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre (VAFC), a cultural, educational and recreational gathering place for aboriginal residents in the downtown eastside.

The PIMS/SFU math mentorship program welcomes all aboriginal children living near the VAFC. So far, more than 50 children have received help from Alvarez, Jungic and 14 other SFU faculty, student and staff volunteers.

"Many of our youth have a negative view of conventional learning strategies in western culture," says Sherry Small, VAFC program director. "However, this program is helping students build a healthy, positive relationship with education and SFU."

SFU volunteers work one-on-one with children for an hour and a half twice a week, using games, workbooks and conversation. This fall, they raised $1,100 to buy each child a workbook from the Singapore math series.

SFU students, faculty and staff in any discipline are welcome to volunteer.

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