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Data with the stars

Written by Jackie Anderson

Students in Northeastern’s Foundation Year program proved math concepts apply to real-world issues in a presentation to a trio of local politicians and celebrities, comprising comedian Jimmy Tingle, Mass. State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and singer, actor and teacher Marlon Hernandez-Jones.

Foundation Year, based in the College of Professional Studies, is a rigorous first-year college program that supports City of Boston high-school students as they develop the skills to succeed in any college setting.

The students made a series of research presentations to the guest stars last Wednesday afternoon in Shillman Hall using the data-rich Boston Indicators Project and the Seven Revolutions. The Boston Indicators Project offers innovative ways to understand Boston and its neighborhoods on a local and global scale, and the Seven Revolutions is an ongoing research initiative that observes and documents important world trends through the year 2030.

“This is just the beginning of an endeavor to develop a nationwide curriculum to teach math to urban youth in a way that is both meaningful and useful to the students and society,” said Raj Jesudason, an assistant academic specialist who teaches mathematics to Foundation Year students.

Tingle, who hosted the event, encouraged Foundation Year students to “learn from other countries.”

Judging by the students’ presentations, they have heard that sentiment expressed once or twice before. One student presented findings using Gapminder, a web-based service that provides development statistics to address the impact of population in India and China, conflict in Mexico and Colombia, and governance and resources in Japan and the United States. In another presentation, a student analyzed the correlation between the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores and race in Boston Public Schools.

Sanchez, who represents the communities of Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Brookline, praised Northeastern, noting, “Make no doubt about it, this institution is on a very big map. Whatever you learn here has incredible value.”

He and Tingle are former students of Jesudason’s.

Through their classwork, current students assessed how countries compare in population, governance and resources. The students’ knowledge of their topics reflected the quality of their presentations, a credit to Jesudason, who, one student noted, is the “best math teacher I’ve ever had.”

Many students in the class plan to further their education at Northeastern and then pursue careers in filmmaking, engineering, accounting, communications, psychology and political science.

At the conclusion of the event, Hernandez-Jones sang “Amazing Grace” and students shared their life stories and described the opportunities they received as a result of the Foundation Year program.