RWRS May 2023 - Peg, High School Math Teacher

RWRS May 2023 - Peg, High School Math Teacher

Meet Peg, a high school math teacher currently working in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a Department Chair at Reseda High School Science Magnet. Peg has been hooked on math ever since childhood when she "glimpsed the true nature of mathematics" through exploratory play with the "new math" curriculum in third grade. With a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Arts in Secondary Math Education from California State University at Northridge, Peg is uniquely qualified to hold a position where she can instruct and inspire the next generation of mathematicians - or at least the next generation of mathematically-fluent individuals!

  High School Math Teacher (n) - a professional educator with specialized content expertise, responsible for teaching math concepts and developing students' critical thinking and problem solving skills  

Peg's resume is extensive: not only does she have 30+ years of teaching experience, but she has also served on the board of several professional organizations and societies, presented at over a dozen conferences, and contributed to at least five peer-reviewed journals! She is currently a member on the steering committee of the Institute for Advanced Study at the Park City Math Institute and organizes their annual Teacher Leadership Program. Oh, and she hosts a knitting club adoringly called "KnitLab West" for her students... she's amazing!

In addition to her work in education, Peg maintains her architecture license. She said that she "became entranced" with architecture early into her teen years, "seeing it as a synthesis of [her] two most loved subjects, mathematics and art." When she finds free time, she enjoys all kinds of fiber arts, modular origami, and traveling.

Though working with teenagers is a duality of reward and challenge, Peg is certainly leading the way in "getting future generations to fall in love with math." During the period of distance learning and the global pandemic, she had her students vote on a weekly theme; then she would dress up in a costume accordingly to encourage attendance to virtual classes. Below, Peg is dressed as Princess Leia from the iconic "Star Wars" franchise, a pirate, and Mozart for which she is "especially proud of crafting [her] Mozart wig out of a bunch of sentence strips [she] happened to have at home at the time."


Peg also shared that she strives to expand her students' conception of what it means to be "smart" in mathematics. According to Peg, many students arrive "with an excruciatingly narrow and flawed view of mathematical competency as exclusively being fast and accurate calculation." To combat this, she displays noteworthy mathematicians and links each to a different type of "mathematical smartness" and how they embody that ideal. While challenging these misaligned preconceptions, Peg finds ways that might seem "simple" to some, but they allow students to explore math in new and creative ways... such as keeping buckets of colored pencils, pens, and crayons easily within reach on every table. This gives her students access to color, perhaps because Peg buys her own colorful whiteboard markers as she "cannot function with only black, blue, red, and green!" 

What does Peg offer as inspiration to young girls who might be interested in pursuing a career in math or another STEM-focused field?

"Just as knowing how to read opens up myriad universes, both real and imagined, for the edification, inspiration, validation and delight of the reader, knowing mathematics does the same. As Galileo said, mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe. To fully engage with the world, one must be at the very least conversant and ideally fluent in mathematics. And once one has seen the inherent beauty of this discipline, anything... and perhaps even everything... becomes a possibility."

This month's yarns, inspired by Peg, are named "High School Math Teacher" and "Old-school Chalkboard." As with previously featured women in this collection, Peg named her coordinating color for something very special to her:

"As soon as I saw the green I thought of old-school classic chalkboards. Most mathematicians are still committed to the use of chalkboards, eschewing both whiteboards and electronic 'smartboards.' They are connoisseurs of chalk, overwhelmingly devoted to 'Hagoromo' which is made in Japan and often called the Rolls-Royce of chalk. When the manufacturer announced he was going to discontinue the chalk a few years back, mathematicians started hoarding it, until a Korean teacher made a deal to continue its manufacture."

Shop yarns inspired by Peg and other inspirational real women in STEM.

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