Instead, they were excited to learn Diaz’s tips and tricks, designed to help them save time, avoid tedious calculations and understand the patterns and logic in math.
One such tip they learned was that to find the average of five consecutive positive numbers it is not necessary to add the numbers and divide by five, said Diaz, a former Frederick County math teacher with 40 years of instructional experience. Diaz told students that the average is always the number in the middle — just like three is the average of a series of numbers one through five.
“It’s a matter of doing math without doing math,” Diaz told his students on Tuesday. “Don’t be creative with math. Math is boring and that is what I like about it.”
With a sense of humor and a lot of energy, Diaz helped incoming seventh- and eighth-grade students during his four-day summer camp, which ended Wednesday, to stay engaged and busy as they reviewed basic math concepts, vocabulary and problems.
The camp was not intended to serve struggling students, Diaz said. The idea is to help students improve their understanding of math problems and test questions specifically. He encouraged students to read carefully, pay attention to what they were being asked to do and not get intimidated by big numbers or complex equations.
“This is about slapping your head when you figure this out,” Diaz said. “Math is about reading, math is about vocabulary, it is not about numbers.”
Diaz’s camp is one of 21 sessions taking place at the Earth and Space Science Laboratory this summer. Open to children from all parts of Frederick County, the camps are designed to get students engaged in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, said Jeff Grills, one of the co-directors of the lab.
While some of the camp sessions focus on math, others like the Mad Science camp, which also ends this week, engages students in fun, hands-on science experiments, Grills said. All camps, which typically have 15 to 25 students, have been filled, Grills said.
Camp fees were between $30 - $135 depending on materials used and length of time, Grills said.
Before the end of the summer break, the lab will also hold a “Fast and Curious” engineering camp for fourth and fifth graders, a Camp Wild life sciences camp for grades three and four and STEAM Camp, which emphasizes science, engineering, math and technology plus art for grades four and five.
This is not the first year that the Earth and Space Science Laboratory has held summer camps for students, Grills said. But there have never been as many options for students, especially in levels other than elementary.
For the first time this year, Grills and the other laboratory co-director, Mark Bowman, invited instructors from outside the lab to lead the camps.
“We picked people we have worked with in the past,” said Grills, who hopes they will be able to offer more options for secondary students next year.
With his distinct teaching style and experience as a math coach, Diaz quickly captured the attention of students and parents alike.
Howard Crouch, a rising eighth-grader from Urbana who is homeschooled, said he enjoyed Diaz’s approach to math as well as his time-saving tips and tricks.
Howard’s mother, Vivian, was also impressed by Diaz’s program.
“We were emailed by a friend who told us we had to sign up for his camp,” said Crouch, who ended up sitting through Diaz’s classes and taking notes.
Amy Altman, whose daughter Rachel attended Diaz’s math camp, agreed. She said the camp was a great opportunity to refresh math over the summer and prepare for the new school year.
“I just wanted to give her an extra edge,” said Altman. “She has already memorized all the prime numbers.”