IMACS program enriches students’ math, science skills

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
A group of third graders created circuits linking wires from batteries to lights, a group of seventh graders sat strategically playing logic games and a group of fourth and fifth graders focused on computer screens building code.
In three different rooms, students exercised different science and mathematic based skills at IMACS, Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science.
The after-school enrichment program allows students to work at their own pace on a level suitable for their ability not necessarily their age or grade.
“This is not your typical math,” IMACS president Terry Kaufman said. “This teaches kids how to problem solve.”
IMACS is in its 24th year. It started with about 30 students in its Plantation location. Now, there are several South Florida locations including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Weston and Fort Lauderdale as well as across the country.
Students who have participated in IMACS have gone on to elite schools like MIT, CalTech and Harvard.
One IMACS student Peyton Roberston has met President Barack Obama and appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show because of his scientific innovations.
The 14-year-old is currently attending an online program offered through Stanford University. Over the summer he took a logic for mathematics course through IMACS. He said he preferred the way the course was taught.
He said the way IMACS teaches doesn’t involve memorizing the multiplication tables, but focuses on the approach of problem solving.
“Writing equations on the board isn’t the most interactive, efficient way to learn,” he said.
Robertson recently participated in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he won $200,000 in a “Chip for Charity” contest with Jimmy Walker. Immediately, he said he wanted to donate the money, which was to be used to further STEM education to IMACS.
He wanted kids who may not be able to participate in programs like IMACS to be able to have the chance.
“IMACS was my first idea,” he said, adding STEM education can be difficult to teach in schools that don’t have access to all the lab supplies, computers and electronics needed.
A typical classroom consists of a maximum of 14 students who are on the same level. Some assignments allow students to work at their own pace and ask for help while other tasks are done more collectively.
Kids range in age from first graders all the way through high school, but Kaufman said it is best to get students engaged in the program early.
He said elementary school is the ideal time to enroll students. The placement course lasts about an hour and he said he learns a lot about a child during that time.
For more information on IMACS, visit imacs.org