A group of 15 mathematics education majors spent a month in Tanzania, teaching math to elementary and secondary students in the African country.
Lisa Kasmer, assistant professor of mathematics, led the study abroad program in May, assisted by Rebecca Walker, associate professor of mathematics. It was an idea Kasmer brought to Grand Valley from her previous institution, Auburn University.
“It’s really a perfect fit for a math education major,” Kasmer said. The Grand Valley students fulfilled their capstone requirement by participating in the program.
Cody Becksvoort said the program fulfilled more than a course requirement. “I was really excited to experience another culture other than my own and, to have my first real opportunity to head a classroom and be in charge of a lesson plan that I had designed,” said Becksvoort, a junior.
The Laker contingent stayed in a lodge and dispersed each day to area schools. The Grand Valley students taught lessons at three different Tanzanian schools from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. In the late afternoon, they would gather for their own class.
Kasmer said prior to leaving for Africa, students learned Swahili from a faculty member in the statistics department, but Tanzanian students speak English when they are in school.
Becksvoort said his classes went well. “The language barrier was hard to deal with, but not impossible,” he said. “It was a fun challenge to try and find ways to best explain what you are trying to teach them in the most basic way, but still have the fully understand the concept.”
Another Grand Valley student, Paige Laurain, said many Tanzanian students had questions about American life. “The students were very responsive to our presence in their classes, and were very interested in what we had to teach,” she said.
It was the first study abroad trip for both Becksvoort and Laurain.
Laurain said adding the trip to her resume has already boosted her hiring potential. “I was offered a position this summer working with Grand Rapids youth based on my experiences in Tanzania,” she said. “When employers see this on my resume, it is usually what they focus on.”
View photos and a video from the group’s trip online here.