WASHINGTON, April 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Thousands of students across America are giving their teachers the night off. They're doing math homework together online with their heroes, including speedskating sensation Apolo Ohno, soccer legend Mia Hamm, basketball star Lisa Leslie and BMX biker Dave Mirra. The first-of-its-kind Hippest Homework Happening is made possible by Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), a leading technology company, as part of its mission to show American middle schoolers that math can lead to cool careers. Already, more than 18,000 students from across the country are registered to participate. Ohno, the newest celebrity to lend his name to the MathMovesU program, showed his support by skating onto Capitol Hill in front of members of congress and over 100 seventh graders to preview tonight's Hippest Homework Happening. Instead of their regular math homework, middle school students can visit http://www.mathmovesu.com to time Ohno's gold-medal winning speed; measure the angles of Hamm's on-field moves; calculate the rotations behind Mirra's favorite trick; and figure out the math behind a prime-time television show. On the site, students can also apply for cool prizes, scholarships and school grants from Raytheon. "Math is very relevant in my career and in my life," Ohno said. "From counting laps around the rink and calculating speed to determining the shortest distance between me and the finish line, math is vital to what I do every day -- I think some kids will find that surprising!" The company launched the MathMovesU program in 2005 to help engage students in math in an innovative, fun way. The initiative targets students in grades six through eight -- at a time when research (1) indicates that math and science performance begins to decline. In a Raytheon-sponsored survey, a majority of middle school students reported that they would be more interested in math if they learned about celebrities (79%) or were shown how people in music, sports and video gaming use math in their jobs (81%). An overwhelming majority of students (93%) said they knew they would need to use math later on in life, but couldn't directly link it to their dream jobs. In fact, many students can't name a compelling career that uses math. "It's a challenge to get and keep American students interested in math so we need to take a long-term view and address this issue early, during the 'slippery slope' of middle school," said William H. Swanson, Raytheon Chairman and CEO. "We hire nearly 3,000 engineers each year making this a real business imperative for us. We must do something to cultivate math skills in this country and engage our students or our workforce is going to be in crisis." America's Math Problem The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that less than one- third of eighth graders reached a level of proficiency or higher in math. The fundamentals -- like homework -- are at the core of the issue. Raytheon surveyed more than 1,000 middle school students and found that a combined 84% of American sixth to eighth graders would rather do one of the following: clean their rooms, eat their vegetables, take out the garbage or go to the dentist than sit down with their math homework. About one-third of the fourth-graders and one-fifth of eighth-graders cannot perform "basic mathematical computations," and U.S. high school seniors recently tested below the international average for 21 countries in mathematics and science (1). As a result, fewer American students than ever are graduating from college with math and science degrees -- causing a shortage of hundreds of thousands of engineers and scientists needed for American companies. Capitol Hill Event Shines Spotlight on Math Ohno will be joined by Professor Jonathan Farley, a mathematician and science fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. Farley is also a member of Hollywood Math & Science Film Consulting, working with writers and producers on television shows like "Medium" to ensure that the technical details in the script are accurate, whether they are mathematical, scientific, or medical. "Many kids struggle to see where math can take them," said Farley, who holds an A.B. in math from Harvard University and a D.Phil. in mathematics from the University of Oxford. "With math as my passion, I've not only traveled to places like India, South Africa, and Jamaica, I've also met some incredibly interesting people, from Navy admirals to actors and producers." Participating in the Hippest Homework Happening Students and teachers can still sign up for the Hippest Homework Happening by logging onto http://www.mathmovesu.com , and they can apply for scholarships and grants on an ongoing basis. In all, Raytheon will provide $1 million in scholarships and grants this year. Scholarships will be awarded to students who explain how they would help make math "cool" in their schools. Grants will fund classroom help for teachers and fund in-school support for math education. About MathMovesU MathMovesU is a unique initiative designed to "elevate math to cool" by combining middle school students' interest in celebrities with grant money, awards and a robust MATHCOUNTS curriculum to encourage excitement about math. The program reaches students at a time when studies(2) show performance declines in math and science, grades six through eight. Raytheon also supports MATHCOUNTS, a national math enrichment, coaching and competition program. You can learn more about MathMovesU and its sponsors by visiting http://www.mathmovesu.com , http://www.mathcounts.org , http://www.raytheon.com , and http://www.bhef.com . (1) National Center for Education Statistics (2) "A Commitment to America's Future: Responding to the Crisis in Mathematics & Science Education," Business Higher Education Forum. January 2005. Page 6.