By Alexandra McLaughlin ’16
When Cuauhtemoc Cruz Herrera ’19 (Guadalajara, Mexico) was 12 years old, a visiting teacher offered him a month of free advanced math classes. Cruz Herrera decided to go for a day and see what it was like.
Fast forward 10 years. Now an applied math and economics major at Macalester, Cruz Herrera has earned an invitation to a highly prestigious conference—the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U)—to discuss an organization he founded to support students like him.
Back in 2007, hoping to compete in national competitions, Cruz Herrera knocked on doors of private schools with math clubs. They turned him away. But Cruz Herrera studied and after months of hard work, became the only public school student from Jalisco to attend the national competition in 2008. “I founded Integración-Matemática to help future students who want to pursue advanced mathematics avoid the hardships that I faced,” said Cruz Herrera.
According to Cruz Herrera, public schools in Mexico neither challenge students in the current curriculum nor provide opportunities to pursue advanced mathematics.
“However, if we make students aware of their capacities to learn by themselves with few resources, we can maximize their opportunities,” said Cruz Herrera. “We can create a generation of self-driven learners who develop problem-solving mindsets through mathematics and may go on to pursue careers in STEM.”
A global citizenship grant from Macalester called the Live It Fund kickstarted Integración-Matemática in 2016 as a summer program for 48 elementary school students in Guadalajara. “Our first generation won four gold medals in the biggest math competition in the state,” said Cruz Herrera.
The next step? Find talented math students from all backgrounds through an online platform, which both provides access to advanced math and detects excelling students. Then offer year round math training.
Programs in both Mexico and the United States supply free math education, but Cruz Herrera says “the idea of preparing talented students to become the future trainers for future generations” sets Integración-Matemática apart. Cruz Herrera envisions that the 100 students selected to participate in the last summer’s program will become teacher assistants in summer 2018. By summer 2019, these students will become the teachers.
Cruz Herrera is traveling to Boston to share his ideas at CGI U, held October 13-15. This annual event brings together students, university representatives, topic experts, and celebrities to discuss innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Cruz Herrera hopes to network with others interested in math education. “It’s a great opportunity for people around the world to learn what we’re doing in Mexico,” said Cruz Herrera. “Hopefully, we might find someone interested in supporting us or collaborating with us.”
Ideally, Cruz Herrera would open Integración-Matemática to every student who wants to participate.
“After my first summer program’s closing ceremony, two kids who didn’t make it to the top 15 approached me crying and begging to continue being part of the program,” said Cruz Herrera. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough resources then to afford two extra students, so I was forced to tell them I couldn’t do it. Since that day, I’ve tried my best to get funds and resources so more students can be part of this project.”