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October 2022 Newsletter: Finding joy in math


October 31st, 2022

As a kid growing up, two subjects drew my interest above all others: English and microbiology. Yes, I recognize those are very different subjects, but I was as fascinated by how words came to life on pages as I was about all the living organisms that we couldn’t see in this world.

Unfortunately, when I tried to pursue microbiology in college, I struggled in my organic chemistry class. As a young woman of color, I felt alone and unsupported in my pursuit. So, I switched my focus.

I think of that younger version of Angela when I think about the work our K-12 education team recently announced to deepen their work in math education so that more students feel supported and engaged and experience math as being relevant to their lives.

As our K-12 director Bob Hughes said, “Math is more than just a tool for getting a good job. Math makes sense of the world and it is analytical thinking in action—the ability to understand patterns, problems, and challenges with ever increasing precision.”

But the way we teach math too often gets in the way of students seeing it as a subject of exploration and discovery. Instead, too many students experience math as irrelevant to their lives—as something to “get through” rather than something to enjoy. Black and Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds, face additional barriers—such as inequitable access to qualified math teachers and high-quality curriculum that motivates and engages their curiosity.

Look, I’m not sad at all about my path, but I see it as my mission to ensure that all the young Angelas out there today have the supports in place to show them that their passions can fuel their futures. I’m excited to see what our K-12 math work inspires over the next decade.

Angela Jones

Director, Washington State Initiative

Partner Spotlight: Renton Innovation Zone

The Washington State team is capping off its final year of funding for the Renton Innovation Zone (or RIZ), led by the Renton School District and Community Center for Education Results (CCER). The RIZ is a unique, community-driven network focused on partnerships between families, community groups, schools, and counselors that all center on student success.

Among the priorities for the RIZ was a focus on making math more engaging and accessible for students. The network saw some early success. In fact, one school in the RIZ chose to focus on increasing math effort and math skills. By the end of the year, the percentage of students exceeding expectations in math effort went from 54 to 77 percent, and the percentage of students meeting math standards improved 15 percentage points over 3 terms.

Read more about RIZ's successes

Community Engagement

A diverse range of organizations in Washington state work every day to engage Latino communities and amplify their voices. In recognition of the important roles these local nonprofits play, our Community Engagement team – which provides responsive grants to address pressing community needs – made general operating support grants in the last year to three organizations serving Latino communities. We caught up with these organizations in October, during Hispanic Heritage Month, to learn more about the work they lead year-round.

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