SHINE is an 8-week program that combines formal dance classes with a tailored math curriculum with the overarching goal of establishing a lifelong love of mathematics and creative expression in its students. SHINE will run from March 5th to May 7th on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30pm – 5:30 pm and is held on MIT’s beautiful campus at the McCormick Hall, 320 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139.
The program is taught by trained dance instructors and math mentors from MIT. Following a rigorous curriculum, SHINE incorporates a method of learning called ‘kinesthetic learning’ which allows students to have fun while they progress to different levels of mathematics, eventually covering all the 6th and 7th Grade Math Standards. The dance portion of classes will focus on both choreography and technique of many different dance styles.
Kirin Sinha, program founder and senior at MIT who’s majoring in theoretical math and computer science, tells the Boston Globe about why she started SHINE:
Sinha began taking ballet, tap, and jazz when she was 3 years old because, she says, she was kind of a klutzy kid. Eventually, she added classical Indian dance to her repertoire, and she now dances professionally. She has been on math teams and loves the creativity that math requires, but she thinks it was dance that gave her the self-confidence, discipline, and gumption that’s helped her succeed in very different arenas.
“You’re taught to work really hard and work through the sheer sweat and grit,” Sinha said. “That stuck with me through math.”
She began to wonder whether dance provided a way to build certain skills that were totally neglected in a traditional math class. She noticed that when she tutored students, there was a clear gender difference: Boys say they don’t understand fractions. Girls say they can’t.
A year and a half ago, Sinha launched SHINE, an unusual after school program for middle school girls that combines the two disciplines. Through hours of tutoring on hip-hop moves and fractions, the program seeks to help girls with math skills and their mindset. Sinha hopes that even just small changes to girls’ self confidence or comfort with math could yield big gains.
On a recent afternoon, the 15 girls in the session spent time learning a complicated hip-hop routine while their instructors walked them through the hops and twirls and shoulder-shimmying steps. They broke it down and practiced the sequence, first slowly and then sped-up. The girls were chatty and inquisitive, asking questions about how their hands should be placed during one move or how to get back into place quickly after the end of one sequence. Then, they went up to a sunlit room at the top of an MIT dormitory and began drawing math problems on the wall with markers and working through packets of word problems.
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