Girls-Only Math Camp Equals Business Opportunity for Teachers

The Count Me In program makes brushing up on arithmetic fun for schoolchildren, and earning some extra cash possible for schoolteachers -- all during summer break.
About midway through the first afternoon of the all-girls Count Me In summer math camp, a group of young ladies lines up at the snack table. A couple of their peers are chosen to take charge of the cash register. There is an assortment of refreshments available, but before any treats can be had, both "customer" and "shopkeeper" need to add up the cost of selected snacks and compute the appropriate change. 

In other words, before anybody gets a chocolate chip cookie with a side of milk, we gotta figure out what 44 cents plus 82 cents equals, and how much change Suzy gets when she pays with two dollars.Girls play "store" at Count Me In math camp.

"The snack store is one of my favorite things about the camps," says Michelle Hayden, CEO and Co-Founder of Count Me In. "Girls love playing 'store,' and it's neat because we can do it all the way through to the older girls by incorporating more difficult concepts: 'Okay, this is your total bill, but there's five percent tax. And you need to tip the cashiers 15 percent.' So we can mix it up based on the level. It's basically just break time, but it's set up as a math activity."

In fact, everything about Count Me In is set up as a math activity. Yet, it doesn't feel like a formal learning session. The concepts and teaching points are incorporated into activities that are definitely much more summer camp than classroom.

"We looked at our national math standards for grade level, along with what we knew from teaching math, to build the curriculum, but we also spent a lot of time thinking about what girls like to do for fun," Hayden says. "Dancing, jewelry making, the store and so on. We were trying to figure out how to turn more girls on to math." 

Hayden seems to be the perfect person for that particular task. Her college degree is in math. She has 20 years of experience teaching the subject. She has two daughters. And she spent time working at an all-girls school, where she discovered some of the potential benefits of developing a gender-specific curriculum. 

"The girls-only piece was a huge component," she says. "When you take the boys out of the mix, you have some real different dynamics. You see girls raising their hands more and laughing more and taking more risks and taking on more leadership roles."

Self-employment adds upCount Me In also gives local teachers the chance to take on more leadership roles.

Count Me In also gives local teachers the chance to take on more leadership roles. Hayden taught the first camp in Denver back in 2009. At the time, she was doing it mainly as a way to make a little extra money during the summer. Word spread throughout the teaching community, however, and by 2012 the curriculum was formalized into two levels, one camp for girls entering first through third grades and another for those about to start third through sixth.

"We've put together the curriculum and materials you need to run a week-long camp," Hayden explains. "We call it 'math camp in a box,' and we sell that to schools and teachers. They take the 'box' and set it up on their own, according to their schedule. They work for themselves. They decide what they want to charge and collect payments. It's not a franchise in any way."

"Almost all of my teacher friends need to make some extra money in the summer," Hayden adds. "This is a great way to work for a couple weeks to pay for plane tickets for the family vacations."

And it seems as though more and more family vacations are on the horizon.

"We did a pilot program in 2012," Hayden recalls, "and had 23 different teachers in five states who taught Count Me In. Here we are in 2014, and I think this summer we'll have 60-plus camps being offered around the country -- more than half of those right here in metro Denver."
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Read more articles by JB Bissell.

Based in Denver, JB writes about local happenings and far-flung places often getting sidetracked at various points between. He can be reached here.
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