AMS scores Intel School of Distinction Award

Principal Kenneth Baum is proud of Samuel Fernandez, 13, Brianna Mann-Hernandez, 13, Patricia Pena, 12 and Jason Jones, 12. Students from the Urban Assembly School for Applied Mathematics and Science won an Intel Award last month. Photo by Daniel Beekman

When you were 12 years old, what did you want to become? A lawyer? A doctor? A firefighter? A baseball player? Patricia Pena wants to become an accountant. No kidding.

“I like math,” Pena said. “Math is fun.”

Pena attends the Urban Assembly School for Applied Mathematics and Science, a middle school on Bathgate Avenue. On Friday, May 8, it won an Intel School of Distinction Award for outstanding achievement and innovative programming in middle school math. Intel picked six schools nationwide.

Each school will receive a $10,000 grant and $100,000 in high-tech equipment. In September, Intel will bring the schools to Washington, D.C. and pick a champ. The champ will score an additional $15,000.

“We’re thrilled,” principal Kenneth Baum said. “The grant will allow us to rescue our after school programs – robotics, research, art and math.”

Baum founded AMS in 2004 in line with the Department of Education’s small schools initiative. It moved from a basement in Riverdale to the sparkling new Bathgate Educational Campus in 2006. Currently, it serves grades six to ten. The school operates on the premise that hands-on math and science are indispensable. AMS students host and dominate the city’s largest math contest, the Pi5NY Math Tournament. On May 9, students battered a “pi-nata” and participated in a mental math bee, then hoisted paper mache pi trophies.

“At Pi5NY, you have kids screaming and laughing,” Baum said. “We had 700 kids at Truman High School. It was like the atmosphere of a college basketball game.”

AMS teachers relate math to the real world. On Friday, May 29, they raided a janitorial closet for props. One teacher used a pair of garden shears to define the terms “force” and “fulcrum.” On April 4, a team of AMS students finished third out of 24 at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Rude Goldberg Machine Contest in Boston. Cartoonist Reuben Goldberg liked to draw crazy complex machines – think Mousetrap.

“We beat some toney schools,” Baum said.

AMS is a public, unscreened school. Baum doesn’t accept or reject students based on test scores.

“We get extraordinary results from a wonderful mix of students,” Baum said.

AMS seventh graders experiment with bottle rockets. In 2006, AMS sixth graders passed the Regents biology exam. All AMS students take piano lessons.

“We get to dissect pig, cow and sheep eyeballs,” Brianna Mann-Hernandez, 13, of Kingsbridge beamed.

“I felt good when we won the Intel award,” Samuel Fernandez, 13, of Bedford Park said. “My old school never won anything.”

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