Our guest blog today comes from Zeno Volunteer Tim Chen! Tim is a recent high school graduate who will be beginning at the University of Washington in the fall. Guess what he’s majoring in? That’s right, Math! Tim plans to get his Bachelor’s Degree then pursue a Masters of Education. Today, Tim shares with us a story about a unique project that has contributed to his path to becoming a math-powered teacher of tomorrow.
As a student of The Center School, I was required this year to complete a senior culminating project. I had to choose a social justice issue, research why the issue exists, and solutions to combat the issue. A major component in the project is an action phase, where I had to choose to do something, such as volunteer, to help address the social justice issue, as well as raise awareness amongst others. I originally was going to focus on helping elementary school students increase interest in math because math is my favorite subject and it was something I could relate to easily. But the idea lacked a social justice component, so I decided the focus of my project would be The Math Education Gap between Diverse and Non-Diverse Elementary Schools.
While researching for the causes of the math education gap between diverse and non-diverse elementary schools, I decided to concentrate my research into three different categories. In my first category, Segregation, I analyze, using diversity maps and charts, how diverse the city of Seattle and the U.S is. I also analyzed the location of diverse and non-diverse elementary schools in Seattle. In my second category, Money/Resources, I used income charts to analyze income, based on location, in the city of Seattle and the U.S. As I began to research more into these two categories, a trend became more evident. In the areas of high diversity, where most of the diverse elementary schools were located, the income levels were lower than the areas of low diversity, where the non-diverse elementary schools were. Because areas of high diversity lacked money, schools in those areas lack resources to help students succeed. The my last category, Assessments, visually represents results to show the math education gap.
After researching reasons for why the math education gap is present, I began looking for solutions to combat the problem. One solution was to increase funding towards diverse elementary schools. This way, diverse elementary schools can afford to get higher qualified teachers, technology/manipulatives, and create programs to help diverse students succeed. Besides increasing funding, another solution is to increase multicultural education. Multicultural education helps diverse students learn better because things are being taught in a way that connects with their culture and background. School districts can also make sure diverse students get the same access to resources non-diverse students get by removing school boundaries. This allows students in diverse areas to go to schools where they can succeed. Teachers can also find ways to make math more engaging by taking things elementary school students like and using it to help them learn. For example, teachers can try to integrate more field trips because most elementary students would rather be outside than in a classroom.
For my final action phase of my project, I decided to volunteer in a diverse elementary school to help students with math. The reason I chose to volunteer was because of my previous volunteer experience with Zeno. I had so much fun volunteering at the summer math camps and so for about three months, I would take a day out of the week and dedicate a few hours to help a group of fourth grade students in Beacon Hill International School with math. Seeing the students struggle in the beginning and then being able to complete math problems on their own at the end shows that my help has been beneficial those students. Most importantly, just being able to make an impact on students’ lives was the best part of volunteering, as it is the main reason for why I want to become a math teacher. Not only does it have an impact on students now, but for their future as well. Because more jobs today are requiring more STEM knowledge, getting kids motivated and interest in math at an early age will help them in the future. Many of you can make a difference in reducing the math education gap too by volunteering at schools or by starting clubs and after school programs to make sure all students have the resources to help them succeed.