The latest assessment in Gr. 8 Honors Geometry wasn't a problem set, test, or quiz—it was an essay, and for many students, it may have been the most impactful assignment of their math career to date.
Math teacher Alessandra King asked students to each interview a woman working in STEM and write an essay on her journey, challenges, and triumphs. The resulting collection of essays—which tells the stories of a NASA astrophysicist, an FDA statistician, a Google virtual reality engineer, and others—teems with advice and inspiration.
Ayleen Acosta '23 interviewed Lisset Jaen, an engineer for AM American Consulting, a structural engineering company based in Florida. Ayleen learned more about the engineering world, including the joy of starting with an idea and ending up with a real-life, functional final product. She learned about overcoming personal and professional obstacles, and that "diversity is essential to creating new solutions to the world's many problems."
Ayleen writes, "This essay furthered my passion to pursue a job in the mathematical sciences because it helped me realize that many international problems can be solved using math and science. I aspire to be a woman in the mathematical sciences so that I can help and inspire others."
Amelie Wilson-Bivera '23 interviewed Laura Cardine-Sardella, a system safety engineer at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In her essay, Amelie describes the precise calculations, high risk, and tight timelines involved in this job. It shows just how much math matters; lives depend on it.
Despite this pressure, Ayleen writes, it's so important for students to realize that being perfect every second isn't necessarily a good thing. "Math is all about mistakes and learning from them; that is how your brain grows," she writes. "Successful students realize the importance of making mistakes, and use them to help them become better mathematicians and students in general."
Mrs. King loves projects like this, that help students see the math in every day, in every job—that help girls build connections and confidence. She explains, "I think all of us need role models and inspiration. It's invaluable for students to be able to see that 'I like math and it's something a lot of people do professionally and are successful at,' and that there are a lot of women in math, no matter what messages we hear from society."
Mrs. King has entered the final projects in an essay contest sponsored by the Association for Women in Mathematics and Math for America. This is her second year doing so (last year, two of her students won honorable mention), and her Upper School Geometry students are currently wrapping up the same project. "The judges have noted the breadth of professions represented in our essays," Mrs. King says. "You really find out that math is absolutely necessary to most jobs."
To learn more about Ms. King's creative approaches to encouraging students to find math everywhere, be sure to read Holton's winter edition of Doorways, due out at the end of the month.