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Making math 'so much fun'

IMACS giving away 20 scholarships

In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, known as IMACS, is giving away 20 scholarships. The organization, which offers after-school, weekend and summer camp programs in computer science, virtual robotics and math logic, among other topics, aims to help students in first through 12th grades develop critical-thinking skills that will help them throughout life, said Terry Kaufman, of Plantation, president and co-founder of IMACS.

"Our philosophy is to introduce advanced ideas and concepts early on but in a context of games and stories and puzzles that make it fun for the kids. Our focus is on logical thinking and giving them genuine understanding ... not focusing on memorization and arithmetic", Kaufman said. "We want to provide an environment where all students can reach their highest potential and give them tools and a well-grounded confidence that will stay with these kids for years to come."

The scholarships, worth $299 to $579 each, are for an eight-week session of once-weekly classes, which take place after school or on weekends. Classes are taught in Plantation, Weston, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Aventura. Partner schools such as Pine Crest School, American Heritage School and University School of Nova Southeastern University offer IMACS classes on-site.

To be entered in the scholarship raffle, students must attend a free IMACS placement class before Nov. 12. In the hour-long class, parents can sit in the back and observe as a teacher uses logic puzzles and games with the kids. The focus is on logical thinking.

"That's where we really get to evaluate the students. It's a fun class for the kids, who don't realize they're being assessed," Kaufman said. "You can pretty quickly tell" if a child is right for the program.

About 70 percent to 80 percent of the kids who take the placement class enroll, Kaufman said.

"I love teaching the placement classes. That's my favorite thing I do here. It's so much fun when they're here for the first time," he said. "Some of them come in crying and screaming that they don't want to be in a math class. By the end, they're begging their parents to sign them up."

Placements are based on ability, not by age or grade, so a class might have students of different grade levels.

"The idea, from the beginning, was 'if you teach kids how to think logically, just how far could you take them?" Kaufman said.

He said he hears from former IMACS students in college and beyond who say the program helped them.

"Even though we tell them they're going to be advanced, they're just amazed at how advanced they are," he said. "One of our students just graduated from Johns Hopkins University in two and a half years with a computer science degree. She had full-time offers from Microsoft, Facebook and Google."

Others have done well at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford and Caltech, Kaufman said.

Kaufman's father, Burt Kaufman, who died in 2007, helped found IMACS in 1993 after developing math curriculum for some 30 years. The IMACS program began with 37 students, and today serves 3,700 students in the U.S. and 10 other countries.

Last year, IMACS partnered with Broward County Public Schools to teach a math enrichment program to about 800 second graders at 10 under-performing elementary schools. This year, the program will serve a new crop of second-graders, as well as continue with the children in last year's program.

"You just can't believe that math can be made so much fun, but it really can," Kaufman said.

To schedule a placement class, call 954.791.2333 or visit www.imacs.org. Select components of the program's curriculum can be found at www.eimacs.com and www.elementsofmathematics.com.