Support Big Projects of Your Renaissance Teens
Thank you for contributing to Math Renaissance! The project is at 42% funding, with 15 days to go.
Are you seeking ideas for deep, meaningful projects for older students? At the age of 14, Rachel began a 3+ year journey of researching and writing the Math Renaissance book. She wrote her main college application essay about her journey. If you want to encourage children's serious, long-term interests – making art, writing stories, building robots, just about anything – or if you want to see how this type of work can transform a person, Rachel's essay will be very relevant for you! Here it is:
When I tell acquaintances that I’m co-writing a book about reforming math education, there's always a slight widening of the eyes in surprise. But people who know me well aren’t surprised. They know that I crave authentic work. I’ve always been a questioner of assumptions and a deep thinker about the root causes of issues. So a few years ago, when I was presented with the opportunity to research and write about math education, I enthusiastically accepted. Along the way, I’ve surprised myself by how transformative this work has been.
I was especially excited about this project because I’ve had a wide variety of math experiences – from the inspiring to the dreaded, from collaborative math circles to learning straight from a textbook, and from full engagement in mathematical thinking to the mindless application of memorized algorithms. I therefore wanted to change people’s perceptions about what math is, to improve the way math is taught, and to dispel the negative (and incorrect) myths about who can be good at it. As the title of my book suggests, I wanted to create a “Math Renaissance,” a golden age of math education where everyone can access the joy and beauty in math, and where the fear and boredom usually associated with the subject are dispelled.
Also, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s injustice. I believe that all children deserve a good education. Educational inequality has been extremely apparent to me after attending an underfunded Philadelphia public school. This desire to eradicate injustice and to give all children access to the best possible education motivates me to engage in this writing and advocacy even when it gets challenging. I see writing this book as an act of sharing the pedagogical wealth by disseminating math circle practices to everyone.
Writing about math education isn’t something teenagers usually do; youth are usually not included in conversations surrounding education practices. That’s a shame. I’ve always believed strongly that the people impacted by an institution or practice should be involved in activism and decision-making surrounding it. “No decision about me, without me,” as the saying goes. This meaningful work has given me an opportunity to live my values. Since I am a teenager, I am heavily impacted by education policy and practice, which I now have an unparalleled opportunity to influence.
I also jumped at this opportunity because I love academic research, investigative journalism, and writing. The work has been intensely intellectually stimulating. It has helped quench my insatiable thirst for knowledge. I have been able to collaborate with professional colleagues, which has helped me become a better researcher and writer.
This work has changed me in some surprising ways. As someone who pours her heart and soul into her work, and historically has never taken criticism well, the process of sending my chapters out to readers for review initially took an emotional toll. While most responses were positive, when one reader said, “The writing seems very disorganized and unclear,” I was upset. However, the more drafts I produced, the stronger I became, both emotionally and as a writer. I gained the confidence to trust my instincts and follow my own path in writing and in life. I used to be somewhat of a people pleaser, but this process of receiving constructive feedback has given me more confidence in myself. I am now more able to stand up for what I think is right even in the face of criticism.
This work has been such a huge part of my life: I’ve been transformed as an individual and had my needs for authentic work and intellectual stimulation met. I hope that this project is my first small step towards uplifting humanity.