The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s math education department is recruiting a different kind of candidate for a new summer program — sixth-grade math whizzes.

The Achieving Mathematics Excellence Camp is a summer camp for incoming sixth-grade students who excel at math and attend public schools rated as a C or lower in Iberia, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes.

The camp is part of a larger initiative that launched last year at the university to boost students’ interests in the math and sciences by providing professional development to middle school teachers.

The university received a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant to create the Louisiana Mathematics Masters in the Middle program to provide courses for middle-school math teachers to achieve an elementary math specialist certification.

As part of the grant program, the teachers produce a summer camp to nurture middle-school students’ talents and interest in mathematics.

“We’d like to maintain the academic momentum that these students have achieved. They’ve already shown that they have potential and we want to further unlock their potential,” said Peter Sheppard, head of UL-Lafayette’s department of curriculum and instruction.

The 10-day camp provides students 50 hours of supplemental instruction based on an Olympics theme with students working out their math skills in the Geometry Gym, Ratio Racetrack and Algebra Arena, Sheppard said.

“This is not a camp where they’re going to sit down and do ditto sheets. They’ll be actively learning and having a blast,” he said.

So far, 13 teachers from the three-parish area participated in the program, taking course work over the summer and throughout the school year.

Teachers in the program already have a master’s degree and their specialist certification may be applied to doctoral studies in educational leadership.

Sheppard said the specialist program is the first of its kind in the state.

The camp will continue over the next three years with students’ progress tracked as part of the grant.

Camp enrollment is capped at 60 students at each parish site and spots are still available, Sheppard said. Interested parents may email Sheppard at or call him at (337) 482-1514.