UC Links Statewide Office Virtual Site Visit - UCI: Math CEO - Virtual High School Session

April 14, 2022

On March 3rd 2022, I (Karla) observed and participated in Math CEO’s - Virtual High School Session. It was led by Prof. Luke Smith (UC Irvine), the instructor of the UC Irvine Math 192: Learning & Teaching in Secondary Mathematics, Prof. Li-Sheng Tseng (UC Irvine), Prof. Shoo Seto (CSU Fullerton) and Fallbrook High School Math Teachers Amylene Cabrera and Shavonne Donoghue. This virtual after-school class takes place on Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Participants include youth and teachers from Fallbrook High School, Santa Ana Virtual Academy, UC Irvine undergraduate and graduate students, faculty from UC Irvine and CSU Fullerton, and visitors who are allowed to join in for the duration of the session.

Math CEO: Virtual High School Session

Days/hours of operation: Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Partners:Fallbrook High School

Activities:Hybrid math games and problem solving

Number of participants:11 Zoom participants + ~ 6 students in a high school class 

Number of graduate/undergraduate students:6

General Observations

Visitors are asked to introduce themselves via a Getting to Know You Google Slides presentation. Each person in the session created a slide that included some basic information such as name, preferred pronouns, and grade as well as a hobby, a photo, and two truths and a like about yourself. Here’s my slide - you’ll have to guess the lie! After this 5-7 minute icebreaker the class moves on to the agenda for the day using Pear Deck,combining slide presentations with interactive questions in aiding inquiry-based learning, allowing co-learners to work independently in the classroom and remotely. At the end of the session everyone gets the opportunity to complete a feedback survey of the day's activities, which gives participants the opportunity to choose future interesting topics.

Focused Observations

The session started with everyone encouraged by Prof. Shoo Seto (CSU Fullerton) to work on an icebreaker problem. The problem is as follows (also on slide 3 of the slides):

  • In front of you are 9 bags filled with coins. All but one bag are filled with gold coins and the one bag is filled with doge coins.

  • Gold coins are 1 gram, doge coins are 1.1 gram.

  • In front of you is a digital scale. Try to figure out which bag has the doge coins.

  • Can you figure out a way to only use the scale once?

The exercise was presented and we were given time to think through what was being asked. After a few minutes we were asked if we had found a solution. Those that had been able to solve the problem volunteered to share how they found the solution and the thought process that led them to come up with an answer (check your answers here if you’re interested in the solution).

After working on the initial problem, with everyone in the class (as a team) for twenty or so minutes, we shifted to the main activity - understanding barcodes presented by Luke Smith, and their importance in allowing computers to identify consumer products. Luke walked us through the history of the barcode as he explained how we would move forward in the activity. He also connected the importance of coding for everyday interactions that include things like shopping for food. We were introduced to a complex looking formula to work out the solution to the barcode word problem. The mentors worked in unison to be able to work together so that the group could understand and see the patterns within barcodes. They asked co-learners to pick a number between 1 and 9 and then use spreadsheets to visualize what, at first, appears to be a complex word problem. This extended activity allowed us to think more about the many reasons numbers are important in our everyday life, as well as showing us that even when formulas intimidate us we all have the ability to learn to work with them. This was followed by a wrap-up which allowed us to think about how codes relate to computers and a preview of the following week's activities: Physics of Music/Sound


One of the things that I loved the most about this virtual site visit was being included in finding the solutions to intimidating complex word math problems. At first, I had hoped that I wouldn't have to participate in finding a solution for them. I wanted to remain an outsider but that was not an option. I was worried because math problems tend to go over my head. I did not understand what the initial math puzzle was asking of me but having participants share the way they solved the puzzle made it perfectly clear. By the time the second participant explained how they found a solution my brain was able to follow. As we went through the process Li-Sheng also threw out questions that were food for thought and that allowed for our brains to think through finding a solution. A chat master did the same thing through the Zoom chat. I had so much fun working through math problems that seem complicated because of complex formulas. The environment of Math CEO made me feel that I would thrive in understanding the language of math if I would spend more time working with this amazing team. This was an enlightening experience. I walked away feeling confident, empowered and grateful for the people who are doing this work.