Zeno has the privilege of working with one super math powered sophomore from Redmond High School who brings her passion for FUN math to Zeno kids all year long! In addition to playing the tenor saxophone, running cross country, playing tennis, tackling Pre-Calculus (her favorite class!), dancing hip hop and spending time with friends and family, 16 year old Meg Leonard dedicates many hours to the kids in Zeno’s math camps and families at Math & Science Mashup , MathFest and Zeno Family Math Nights! As Zeno Volunteer Manager, Carol Ryan, described,
“At last night’s Mashup, I observed Meg working with a child at the ‘Drips Ahoy’ station. She was a natural teacher—she didn’t tell the child the answer, but asked questions to prompt good thinking. She was patient and encouraging. It was really inspiring to see her talent.”
Beyond her commitment to encouraging math confidence at countless Zeno events, Meg has a history that we at Zeno are pretty inspired by. As a first grader at Wilder Elementary, Meg experienced the beta version of what Zeno has grown into through Norm Alston’s Math Adventures at Wilder Elementary. We had the chance to sit down with Meg last month and talk about how her early math experiences have impacted her and why she continues to dedicate so much time to Zeno.
Zeno: What attracts you to Math?
Meg: I really enjoy math. I live in a very math-friendly household and I have always been encouraged to like math by my teachers. But the best part about math to me is that there is a concrete answer to every problem which is something you won’t find in English or History. There may be multiple ways to find a solution, but you always get there. I have always found it satisfying to find the right answer after a lot of calculating and many steps. It’s something I find unique about math that has always drawn me to it.
Zeno: What do you find fulfilling about teaching/playing Math with kids?
Meg: I love doing math with kids. It’s exciting to see them working hard and enjoying the same things that I do. I find it especially fulfilling to see the gears turning in their heads until the information finally clicks, and their faces light up with excitement and accomplishment. Lastly, I find it rewarding to help them realize that math isn’t a scary, impossible thing. By playing math games and using other teaching methods, I feel as though I am making math approachable and even fun.
Zeno: What inspired you to start volunteering with Zeno?
Meg: At the summer camp volunteer training last summer, all of the volunteers were asked to describe their childhood experiences with math. Just about every person in the circle explained how, when they were younger, they hated math and always dreaded doing times tables and other math related activities. I was really surprised by this. It really made me think about my early math experience, which was quite the opposite. I always loved math in elementary school and I would look forward to it every day; and it’s still my favorite subject! After hearing of other people’s bad math experiences, as well as the statistics of math grades in Washington State, I was inspired to get more involved in the Zeno program in an effort to provide more kids with a math experience similar to mine.
Zeno: What was your math experience like as a student at Wilder and how does it relate to the work you see Zeno doing today?
Meg: I think the most powerful aspect of Zeno’s programming is creating an environment where math is fun. When I was in elementary school we had a math program similar to Zeno. We would get the opportunity to play math games with friends, have “math adventures” which involved learning cool new math skills with volunteer parents, participate in math nights with our friends and families, and, best of all, attend math clubs with our Mathematician-in-Residence, Mr. Alston. One of my favorite activities was playing battleship using walkie-talkies while learning about coordinate systems. It was really fun! With all this exposure, the fear most people have of math was virtually nonexistent in my elementary school. In fact, math was the cool thing to do. The math clubs were so popular that they had to use a lottery system to choose who got in; I was fortunate enough to get in every time, thanks to my mom’s frequent volunteering. All of my friends loved math, and we still talk about our elementary school math club memories. I truly believe that it is because of this environment, which is the environment Zeno strives to create, that I am so confident in my math skills today. I don’t dread going to math class – in fact, I look forward to it. I believe that Zeno’s goal to make math fun and approachable is critical in helping kids become more successful in math. I had a great math experience in elementary school, and I hope that future 16 year olds will be able to look back and say the same thing. I think Zeno can make that happen.
Thank you, Meg, for your contagious math powered energy! We are so fortunate to work with you!