The 'Operazione Cielo' project – conceived by the Cielo Itinerante association and brought to life in partnership with the Fondazione CDP, Fondazione Bracco, Fondazione Paolo Bulgari, and iliad – set out to engage over 200 children in learning mathematics through a novel teaching method developed by Stanford University.
According to data gathered by Ipsos at the conclusion of the project, there was a 95% improvement in mathematical skills among the participating students.
Mathematical abilities doubled through a teaching method that avoids calculations or textbooks.
The enthusiastic and increasing engagement of children in a mathematics summer camp is by no means a foregone conclusion... and nor was the substantial transformation observed in their interest and abilities at the end of this unique “experiment”. However data gathered by the Ipsos Institute demonstrate precisely this, having evaluated the impact of the four-week summer camps from the “Operazione Cielo” project, conceived by the Il Cielo Itinerante association and delivered in partnership with Fondazione CDP, Fondazione Bracco, Fondazione Paolo Bulgari, and iliad. The camps were held in neighbourhoods of significant social deprivation with high secondary school dropout rates in the cities of Milan, Rome, and Naples1, involving over 200 students aged between 10 and 14.
Thirty young undergraduates and university researchers from across Italy, mentored by professors from Stanford University – a leading institution in the United States – delivered teaching using the Youcubed method. This innovative approach revolutionises mathematics learning by progressively challenging deep-rooted beliefs. It dispels the notion that one is 'not gifted', that speed equates to intelligence, and the feelings of inadequacy when faced with complex problems, redefining mathematics from being a rigid, dull, and abstract subject, by emphasising creativity and playfulness.
Teaching with an innovative approach brings surprising results in just four weeks
To assess the effect of this experience, the Ipsos research institute issued a questionnaire to the students at the beginning and end of the summer camps. The questionnaire was divided into two parts: the first sought to gather views and experiences related to mathematics, while the second was dedicated to a quantitative assessment of certain skills, employing a methodology developed by Stanford University.
The results of the questionnaires completed before and after the camps show that the measure evaluating the children's abilities almost doubled (+95%). However, when the data was statistically separated by gender, it was the girls who excelled, both in the stages before and after the camp, despite considering themselves less numerically adept than their male counterparts. Indeed, 38% of girls had a low opinion of their abilities, in contrast to a mere 18% of boys.
Some 91% of the children surveyed expressed satisfaction with this experience, and 84% were extremely pleased to have been introduced to this new method of learning maths. For over half of the children (56%), mathematics, which was initially deemed dull, became enjoyable after attending the summer camps.
The teachers also provided an assessment of the results achieved over the four-week summer camp. In every location, they reported a notable rise in the engagement of attendees and their eagerness to participate actively. This corroborates the Ipsos data, which reported an initial participation rate of 11% at the start of the camp, increasing to 54% by the camp's conclusion. The surveys also showed enthusiasm among the university students, who through their experience as educators learned a highly innovative method of teaching mathematics, enriching their skills and forming a solid foundation for their future careers. Additionally, they gained satisfaction from sparking new interests and curiosity in young people who seldom have the chance to encounter such stimulating material.
1Forcella, Ponticelli, San Giovanni a Teduccio, San Carlo all'Arena in Naples; Tor Bella Monaca in Rome; and Giambellino in Milan.