Wise Young Builders and the Joy of Math

“Every nine-year-old boy wants to bang with a hammer. That level of excitement is wonderful. We are building practical skills on that excitement,” said Elijah Moses, Executive Director of Wise Young Builders, a non-profit and VELA Meet the Moment grant recipient that provides construction and math workshops to youth in grades 3-8. 

Since Moses founded Wise Young Builders in 2010, hundreds of students have learned math concepts through teaching practical skills. The program maintains that reading a tape measure can provide the basis of most arithmetic.  

“VELA has energized our work during the pandemic. Somebody heard our voice and believed in us, and we’re thankful” Moses said.

Applying what kids learn in school to real life 

Wise Young Builders offers summer camps and after-school programs to youth in several regions, including in and around Buffalo, New York. The program teaches its students age-appropriate math concepts such as multiplication, division, fractions, area, and perimeter. 

Participants apply their math knowledge by building simple carpentry projects in a hands-on workshop setting. Every student builds at least one project and is able to take these projects home to share with family and friends, giving the students a sense of confidence and accomplishment in using their minds and hands to complete a task. The organization underscores the values of critical-thinking and problem-solving in their work, as well as building character. 

Moses says that teaching youth about construction and related practical skills opens doors for them in life after high school. 

“Postsecondary education has many paths. We set students up for success in and after high school by introducing them to the different options available to them. We don’t try to decide how a student uses the information; we believe exposure proceeds choice. You can only become what you are exposed to,” he adds. 

Building In-Demand, Lifelong Skills

Moses regularly points to the Good Jobs Project at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce that found there are “30 million good jobs for workers without bachelor’s degrees.” 

“Students are often pushed to pursue a four-year higher education path. Life has shown that does not exclusively work,” he said. “We help youth to broaden skill sets and create awareness that other opportunities exist.” 

Wise Young Builders teaches students about a variety of related careers and the paths they can take to pursue those careers, everything from home inspectors to real estate developers. 

Moses says that knowledge of construction and practical skills can be used in the home, for contract work, or to start a small business. 

“Real estate development companies are always looking for skilled workers. There are lots of opportunities out there to own a small construction business and tap into the many construction and building projects available,” he said.  


Learn more at www.wiseyoungbuilders.org. Follow Wise Young Builders on Facebook

Contact hello@velaedfund.org to share your own out-of-system innovation.