High school write math on chalkboard

Northeastern’s ‘Bridge’ helps Boston public school students traverse calculus chasm

In 1994, Northeastern mathematics professor Robert Case noticed something: high schools in the Boston suburbs had Advanced Placement calculus programs, while inner-city schools did not. So Case decided to do something about it.

Inspired by the work of civil rights activist Bob Moses, Case proposed a Bridge to Calculus, a summer program that would offer students, who might not have access to AP math curricula, a free summer program at Northeastern.

The goal from the beginning has been “to mirror the high school student population in the Boston public schools,” says professor Egon Schulte, chair of the Northeastern Mathematics Department.

But there was a problem: Many of the students interested in the course also needed to hold down jobs to support both themselves and their families. The solution? Ask them to come in at 7:30 a.m. The Bridge to Calculus program runs three hours a day, Monday through Friday, for six weeks each summer.

Rajini Jesudason, Bridge to Calculus program director, says that you might expect high school students to balk at the prospect of a summer math class, let alone a voluntary one so early in the morning, but that hasn’t been the case.

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Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University.

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