This week’s blog post is from Anusha Rao, Advisor for Volunteer Communications and Social Media. Anusha has been dabbling in the blog world for several years, she reviews children’s literature for Saffron Tree and writes about parenting joys at Talking Cranes. Last spring, her 6 year old came back from an Eastside Mathfest with a sparkle in his eyes, and Anusha knew right away that she wanted to be part of an organization that was impacting a positive change in math attitudes from the ground-up. She signed up for the position of Advisor for Volunteer Communications and Social Media, and she will be shining the spotlight on our volunteers and how their contribution makes our work possible! 

If you have ever attended one of our Mathfests, you counted! You counted as one of the families that had chosen to look at math from a different angle.

We say it all the time: for sustainable math culture to take hold in elementary schools and the broader community, we cannot do it alone. From our Board of Directors, who donate countless hours, to one-time event volunteers, we need people passionate about ensuring every child’s success in math to bring their energy and positivity about math to our work. Our volunteers are most visible in our events and programs, playing math at Family Math Nights and MathFest events, or assisting teachers at our summer math camps. But we also rely on volunteers who work behind the scenes. Their impact is huge, because many of these volunteers bring expertise that enables us to accomplish things we simply could not without them. Volunteers like Bu Huang.

For the past two years, volunteer Bu Huang has helped Zeno strengthen our program assessments. These measure the change in attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and skills of the students, parents, and teachers in our programs. At our MathFest, MathWays workshops, Math Clubs and other programs, we collect attendance data and participant opinions through surveys. Then, we sift through and analyze these numbers to see how much of an impact we made. Ultimately we are trying to positively impact their relationship with math and assessments tell us if we are headed in the right direction.

Back in 2010, we were barely starting to wrap our heads around the volume of data we were gathering. We were beginning to implement several processes but what we lacked was the expertise to sift through the maze, analyze the content and understand where we were making a difference and where we were not.

It was at this critical time that Bu Huang entered the picture. She was drawn to Zeno when Carol Ryan, Director of Volunteer Engagement, introduced her to Zeno’s mission. Rooted in an environment with a positive math culture and educated in Sociology and Statistics, Bu could not resist the opportunity to crunch numbers that would help a positive cause. Bu’s statistical expertise met Zeno’s need for data analysis – they added up perfectly!

Over the course of a year, she analyzed and sorted the data, corrected the input as necessary and made sense out of what would otherwise have been just a load of numerals. As witness to the 50+ hours of volunteer work Bu put in, Program Director Jennifer Gaer attests to Bu’s commitment to the task at hand. This was not the only demand on Bu’s time. She juggled her 50+ hour work week and managed her family, without missing a beat at Zeno.

All good things grow on to become better things. For Zeno, Bu has raised the statistics analysis from its infancy phase to a more manageable project. She has now chosen to hand the baton to another volunteer so she could focus on her family-work balance. She will be dearly missed and her contribution to Zeno will always be looked at as a source of inspiration.

Tianji Pang will be taking over for Bu. Tianji is pursuing her graduate studies in Public Affairs at the Evans School of University of Washington. She discovered Zeno through her school and after helping with Math Club and with volunteer recruitment, Tianji found her the data analysis fitting in right with her statistics skill set. Tianji values her opportunity at Zeno for helping her acquire real world skills at a non-profit organization and complementing her academic skill set. We are grateful to Tianji for taking over a significant task.

Thank you, Bu and Tianji, volunteers like you fuel Zeno’s mission and your contribution keeps our wheels churning. We value your dedication and you inspire several others to join hands toward our mission of building sustainable math culture.

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