Marvelous Math Club provides an affirmative and collaborative place to celebrate math. Each Monday from 3:00 - 5:00 PM, leaders from the Pisgah View community come together with Math Champions from UNCA, OLI and the surrounding Buncombe County community to complete homework, play math games and learn leadership skills. Marvelous Math Club pairs math with friendship and support to build strong community and leadership skills.
What is Marvelous Math Club?
Marvelous Math Club is an afterschool club initiated through requests from an Asheville Housing Authority community. Asheville City Schools, the University of North Carolina Asheville, and Asheville Housing Authority partnered to make Marvelous Math Club a reality.
The Club uses a unique model that integrates math and psychology, centers the experiences of the students, parents, and guardians in this predominantly Black community, and celebrates its elementary-age students (Math Leaders).
The Club is a space with the goal of Math Leaders feeling safe physically and emotionally. Leaders and community members partner in this evolving strategy of asset- and justice-based thinking and practices. Our intention, in addition to supporting math education, is to transform narratives around race, academic success, identity, and cultural awareness and to consciously address the narratives of who does math, who is good at math, and where math learning takes place. Marvelous Math Club became a healthy partnership of math and psychology with a racial equity lens.
What does a day in Marvelous Math Club look like?
Math Champions welcome the Math Leaders off the bus with excitement and celebration that they chose to be in community with each other that day with music, consensual high fives and ask them what they want their time to look like that day! Math Champions check in with them on something Math Leaders are offered snacks, a name tag, games and manipulatives (physical things that support in comprehension and visualization of math concepts). Math Leaders make their own decisions on if they want to get right into homework, go home and do self care, play and then work, work and then play, share or study a concept they learned that day.
We have a room where most of the day takes place and the leaders also have access to a yoga room and quiet rooms for independent work equipped with laptops, pens, paper, fidget toys and anything they may need to be complete the work.
Who is involved in Marvelous Math Club?
Marvelous Math club has members from both inside the PVA community and guests! We are honored to be supported by PVA residents, elders, and family members, as well as UNC Asheville students, Asheville City School Foundation, Asheville Housing Authority, the Tzedek Social Justice Fund, UNC Asheville Initiative for Math, UNCA OLLI who all bring their magic to MMC in their own ways.
At MMC, we use the word “magic” as shorthand for the personal and community growth that occurs through communication, persistence, imagination, and love. Part of the magic is that MMC is set up to eliminate barriers—barriers of transportation, barriers of money, barriers of paperwork. By having MMC at the PVA Community Center, we meet where the Math Leaders live. The non-resident Math Champions are guests of the community. Math Champions are not there to “fix” the children or “remediate” or even “teach.” Math Champions and Math Leaders learn together and make magic happen all the time.
How are members recognized for their participation?
If you contribute to Marvelous Math Club, your business will receive a certificate and we can feature your logo on a t-shirt or event poster!
Please contact Samuel Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org if this is of interest to you! There is information below on where to donate as well.
How can you get involved?
Please contact Samuel Kaplan at email@example.com if this is of interest to you!
How can you contribute?
To make a contribution to Marvelous Math Club, one can do so with a check or online.
The account is in the UNC Asheville Foundation which is a 501(c)(3).
It’s EIN is 23-7073829.
A check would be written to the UNCA Foundation with Marvelous Math Club in the Memo.
Send the check to:
UNC Asheville Advancement
One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804
To contribute online;
There is a drop-down menu with choices of "Designation."
In the drop-down menu, choose "Other."
Fill in "Marvelous Math Club."
What is Asset-Justice based Thinking and practices?
Deficit-based thinking highlights a problem while asset- and justice-based thinking amplifies strengths and addresses language that perpetuates injustice. For example, “help” elicits a sense of inadequacy, while “support” offers extra effort to add to what is already being exerted. “Can I support you with homework?” has a very different connotation than “Let me help you.” In the former case, the Math Leader is assumed to be capable of homework and responsible for its completion. Support is offered, but not required. And if support is desired, the Math Leader is in a position to dictate what support they want. The latter case assumes that the Math Leader is unable to do the homework without the Champion; that extra help is necessary for them to be okay.
In an effort to extend beyond a vocabulary list, we learned to emphasize to Math Champions how important it is to embody asset-based language. We now talk about asset and justice-based thinking and practices. The “thinking” invites us to reflect on the words we say before we say them. Does a certain word cause harm or does it support growth? If a word has a negative connotation, the invitation is to reflect on: What are we really trying to say? What words express our intention to be in relationship with one another, to bring out the best in one another? The “practice” is the work of shifting our habits towards ones that ignite the brilliance in others.
Who started MMC?
Ms. Marta Alcalá is a Latina woman who has lived, worked, and invested in the Asheville community for the last 30 years. She is committed to facilitating deep relationships centered on revolutionary love and collective liberation. Marta’s work in the school system and community is rooted in engaging the community to achieve a clearer understanding and shared analysis of education equity and to create equitable and just practices. Ms. Alcalá is known for her work with asset and justice-based thinking and practices. In addition to co-founding Marvelous Math Club, she started a Motheread group seven years ago which has created an amazingly powerful group of black, brown, and white women who uplift one another and are charting new territory on building true multiracial communities. Ms Alcalá currently serves as the Executive Director of Equity and Community Engagement for Asheville City Schools.
Dr. Sam Kaplan is a Professor of Mathematics at UNC Asheville. He has organized four Math Literacy Summits to highlight community priorities and resources around mathematics. Dr. Kaplan has been recognized for his teaching with a UNC System Board of Governors Award, a UNC Asheville Teaching Excellence Award in the Natural Sciences, and a Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southeast Section of the Mathematical Association of America.