[caption id="attachment_39272" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Algebra Academy students tour Medtronic CardioVascular's facilities in Santa Rosa to see how math is applied in day-to-day operations."][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- The Mike Hauser Algebra Academy, sponsored by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, is expanding to other cities in Sonoma and Marin counties.  Now in its fourth year, the academy has helped more than 200 English language learners going into eighth and ninth grades appreciate the practical value of math in the real world.

[caption id="attachment_39273" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Algebra Academy students at Medtronic"][/caption]

According to educators, algebra is critical to both academic and workforce success. Without it, students would not be able to graduate high school or enter the UC or CSU systems, since algebra is a part of the required curriculum.

The academy accomplishes its mission by exposing young people to an intensive, three-week program twice a year where they witness how local companies use basic algebra in daily operations while participating in the process.

[caption id="attachment_39274" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Algebra Academy students at Medtronic"][/caption]

“We hire teachers that are in the classroom with the students each day, and coordinate with the businesses who also send professionals to teach lessons about how math is used in their jobs,” Ms. Bass said. “The goal is to make math relevant, understandable and even fun.”

[caption id="attachment_39275" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Algebra Academy students examine equipment at a PG&E location."][/caption]

From June 14 to July 2 this year, some 60 students spent a week at each of three sponsoring companies, including: Agilent Technologies, JDS Uniphase, Medtronic CardioVascular and Pacific Gas & Electric, in cooperation with the Sonoma County Office of Education and the Piner-Olivet, Roseland, Wright and Santa Rosa School Districts.

Named in honor of its late founder, former Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce President Mike Hauser, the Algebra Academy was launched in 2008 with 30 young people as a partnership between local businesses and educators.

“Mike always wanted to see this program thrive and expand to other communities,” said Kelly Bass, director of workforce development for the Santa Rosa Chamber.  “We are keeping his dream alive by continuing to sponsor, promote and replicate his project.”

The city of Novato and the Novato Unified School District have also adopted the Algebra Academy concept. The first sessions began August 1 with funding support from the North Bay Leadership Council.

“In Novato, students spend the first two hours learning algebra and the last two touring the participating plant as they see how employees use math and science,” said Cynthia Murray, president of the North Bay Leadership Council, which collaborated on the academies.

Companies partnering in the Novato program include the North Marin Water District, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Infineon Raceway, Redwood Credit Union and the Novato Sanitary District.

Test formulas were used to show the value of algebra and math used by the sanitary district to measure solids left as a gauge of plant efficiency, and later in converting grams of these solids to milligrams.

“The benefits of attending the Algebra Academy are already being seen among the first class of academy students who continue to be enrolled in math classes, compared with their peers,” said Ms. Bass.

This program is gaining traction in other cities as well. The Sonoma Valley School District is considering starting an Algebra Academy in 2012.

The Santa Rosa Chamber is also focused on programs that promote English in the workplace. The WHEEL Program (Worksite Held Employee English Learning) has more than 10 businesses in the county participating in English classes for workers who do not speak English as their first language. This group is also supporting financial literacy and other topics.

“WHEEL also strives to gain employee engagement as well as active parent involvement in school,” said Jonathan Coe, President and CEO of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.  “We also sponsor the Young Professionals Network and Leadership Santa Rosa, now in its 28th year, as ways to identify and encourage community leaders. Our newest project is BEST, Building Economic Success Together, a new way to coordinate resources to create jobs in our community.”

The Chamber has a 20-member Educational Leadership Committee comprised of concerned volunteers that meets quarterly to focus on soft skills lacking among employees, such as dressing for success, customer service and even the art of shaking hands with a smile, among many other topics.

For more information, go to the website www.santarosachamber.com.