Today’s blog post comes from Megan Wildenradt, Zeno’s Director of Development and Communications. Recently we heard from individuals in our community about their math identities in Being a Math Person Part 1 and Part 2. Megan shares another perspective and a pretty inspiring story to boot!
Yup, it’s true. One of Zeno’s own is a full blown math PHOBIC. Correction, used to be a full blown anxiety ridden, ‘right brained’, math PHOBIC!
I was new to Seattle and looking for a job in fundraising for an organization with a mission I felt passionate about. Zeno’s job description struck me. Changing math culture? Building math confidence in children? I’d never heard of anyone working towards that and I couldn’t help myself from wondering about where I would be if I’d had Zeno in my life as a child.
I’ve struggled with math my entire life. My dad majored in mathematics in college and I had four older brothers who breezed through math. They made it look so easy, so natural. My mom struggled more with math and was determined that I would not inherit her math resistance. Teachers spent hours with me during lunch and after school; there were countless nights late at the dinner table with my Dad; I had tutors, test prep classes and workshops galore.
The thing is, my mind was made up. I just wasn’t a math person and nothing was going to change that. And the negative math culture so engrained in our society allowed me to accept my fate. “It’s no big deal…you’re so great at reading and writing”….”math is the worst, you won’t need it in the real world anyway.”
And as a result I’ve avoided it my whole life. The irony is that while trying to avoid math, I allowed it to shape all of my life decisions. Which college to attend, which courses to take and which major to select. Even choosing a profession based on my perception of the amount of math required. How many doors did I close for myself? How many opportunities did I think I just wasn’t smart enough for?
I’ll never forget my first Zeno staff meeting. Here I am eager to meet my new co-workers and dig into the work and I discover that we’re going to spend the first 10 minutes doing a math challenge. I felt frozen, could feel my face turning red and thinking oh no, day one and they’ll know my secret… I was right back in Miss Sakai’s 3rd grade class trembling at the thought of multiplication tables and having to recite in front of the class.
What I discovered surprised me. Zeno was the safe zone. There was not a moment of judgment, only patience and kindness. The math I’ve feared and let control my life, is the not the math I see at Zeno. Zeno is about building confidence, showing kids that math can be fun and playful and showing families how to be positive math role models.
Fast forward seven years and I now find myself having fun and eager for the next challenge. When I hear friends express their math hatred, I jump in and tell them about Zeno. And here’s the real kicker…I use math every single day. I analyze data, build budgets, obsess over financial reports, ensure I purchase the precise amount of wine to make sure no glass is empty at Make a Move 4 Math (my co-workers like to call this wine math). I could go on and on.
I’m now a parent to a 10 month old named Leo and have an even deeper perspective on math. Leo’s room is filled with numbers and math games. We can’t get half way around the block without me pointing out a shape or pattern. Will he grow up loving math and dreaming of being an astronaut? Who knows? But I can tell you he will never ever hear me utter the words, “I hate math”. Not a chance. Zeno taught me better than that.