For his senior capstone at CSU Monterey Bay, Zac Walker wanted to create a project that used math for the betterment of society. He zeroed in on lower math and science scores among students of color and sought a way to get Latino students excited about math.

Walker, who was majoring in mathematics with a minor in service learning, focused his lesson on Inca rope bridges and how people of color have contributed to mathematical theories throughout history. He enlisted middle school students through the Recruitment in Science Education program, based at the Boys & Girls Club of Salinas.

The students came to campus for a day-long workshop in spring 2011 on the mathematics of Inca bridge-building. Guided by high school and college mentors, they worked in small groups to design and build rope bridges, calculating the rope needed and how knots and braids would affect those measurements.

All the students successfully constructed and crossed their bridges. Walker found that not only did their understanding of the mathematical concepts increase, but they also expressed more interest in math.

Following graduation in 2011, he landed an AmeriCorps position in the Service Learning Institute, where he now coordinates the Service Learning Student Leader program. He’s also taking this time to apply to graduate programs so he can continue working to improve America’s educational system.

– Liz MacDonald