Frequently Asked Questions: Zeno’s evolution
1. Is your mission changing?
Zeno is committed to inspiring kids and their families to love math. And while we’re changing some of the details on how we accomplish that, what will never change is the core commitment we’ve always had to kids and families and to making math fun. Zeno has evolved over the years, as many organizations do. Our recent strategic planning process laid the groundwork for how Zeno will continue that inspiration through new opportunities. As a result, we’ve rewritten Zeno’s Mission Statement to reflect our next evolution:
Zeno’s mission is to increase children’s competence and confidence in math with fun and engaging activities. We serve early learners and elementary school-aged children in the communities with the greatest need.
We believe the earlier we can get kids excited about math, the more powerful their futures will be. As you know, not all children have access to the same opportunities to develop competence and confidence in math. This creates an opportunity gap that is leaving some students behind. If we can step in and encourage a love for math early in a child’s life, everything can change.
MathWays for Early Learning is designed to equip Pre-K families and early learning providers with activities, tools and skills to explore math at home. This allows families to instill in their children a sense of curiosity around math in a fun, age-appropriate way that is accessible for all families, sustainable and culturally competent.
3. Will you still continue to work with kids at the elementary school level?
Yes! Zeno is building upon the successes we’ve seen with our elementary school programs and refining our most powerful programs to help students and teachers succeed. We will continue to offer MathFest and Math + Science Mash Ups and a re-imagined Family Math Night Series in elementary school communities.
As we continue to invest more deeply in early learning and closely examine where we can make the strongest impact, we’ve come to the very difficult decision to close our Mathematician in Residence (MIR) program.
- This program of coaching and providing math resources to early elementary teachers has been the foundation of Zeno’s work for years. We are incredibly grateful for the many MIRs who have successfully coached hundreds of teachers over the course of the last decade and to the countless donors and volunteers who have made the program possible over the last decade!
- Ultimately, we have come to the conclusion that Zeno, as a small, privately funded non-profit, is not the right organization to tackle this challenge.
- We deeply value this work and believe that providing coaching and resources to teachers is a promising method of affect change. As a result, we are committed to advocating on behalf of teachers and their students and to support others in our community in their efforts.
We remain dedicated to a continuum of programming that begins with the littlest learners and progresses to early elementary and plan to seek out other innovative ways to serve elementary school-aged kids and their families.
5. How do you define ‘communities of greatest need’?
Communities of greatest need are those with:
- 70% or greater Free and Reduced Lunch Rate; and
- below state average performance on 4th grade math assessments; or
- Below state average performance on Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS).
This brings Zeno in alignment with the Road Map Project, a region-wide effort aimed at improving education in South King County and South Seattle, and ensures that we’re working to close the opportunity gap for students in our region.
6. What do you mean when you say math assessments? How can you test kids as young as 2 years old?
We use both OSPI’s 4th Grade Math Assessment and the WaKIDS survey to paint a picture of math performance in a community. Just as that 4th Grade Math Assessment can show us the likely performance of an entire school at that grade level and below, we use the WaKIDS survey given to incoming Kindergarteners to paint a picture about math fluency among Pre-K children in a given community. That, paired with socioeconomic data, helps us narrow down what communities have the greatest need for our programs.
7. Will alumni partners still have access to Zeno’s trainings and online materials?
Absolutely! Now you can access Zeno’s library of training videos, curriculum and planning documents without logging in. Just visit our Program Resource Library to find the tools needed to easily incorporate one or more of Zeno’s DIY programs into your day.
8. How can you teach math at such a young age?
The method of engaging children matters. Free play is critically important in healthy child development, and building a child’s foundation for math is no exception. Effective mathematical play must be guided in order to have positive impacts on math outcomes. Our programs focus on use of games, manipulatives, and play. A recent literature review compiled by Zeno’s Data Scientist partner, data2insight, provides solid research based evidence that supports the potential impact of Zeno’s approach. Findings “suggest that Zeno’s game based approach to introducing math concepts has the potential to boost mathematical knowledge among program participants, particularly those from lower income families.”
9. Who can I contact for more information on Zeno’s evolution?
If you have any questions or comments about these changes we’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Julie Marl, Executive Director at Zeno!