Our Partners in Philomathy

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By Ananya Rabeya

“Connections: Adventures in Learning” is the subject line of Head of School Sue Belcher’s weekly email to our founding families. Aptly titled, it captures many of the unique aspects of The Downtown School, including City-as-Lab. Students either leave the classroom to apply learning with local organizations, or an expert in their field visits the school to work with students on campus. In the case of Mathematics and Computational Thinking, what has been most exciting while developing the thematic curriculum is the invaluable contributions of our founding parents and guardians. Through their expertise, they have provided meaningful opportunities that made the curriculum more relevant and relatable. We have had many visitors to Math class this year, and I am constantly in awe of our parents’ and guardians’ knowledge and generosity in offering their time. Here are just a few highlights from the year:

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  • While discussing retirement accounts, a parent, a savvy stocks and options trader, offered to host four investing workshops with our students. He took them right into the world of live financial coverage with real-time tickers, IPOs and settlements, diversification, whisper number, candlesticks, analytics, P/E ratio, and for one class, derivatives pricing. With these workshops, students drove home a concept they were thrilled to explore through a virtual stock exchange platform (which a student proposed). There may have even been reports of students texting their parents during lunch asking which stocks to pick, hoping to keep their choices grounded in earnings growth, and their newly learned P/E ratio!

  • During Back-to-School Night, I shared that students were creating home mortgage amortization schedules and learning about home equity. The next morning, a parent had already sent me resources on redlining in Seattle. It wasn’t long before my students dove into a class-wide research and a forum discussion on the housing segregation and disparity in home equity in our communities. Another parent took it upon herself to connect me with the director of a local food bank for our upcoming exploration of the supply and demand of food in our communities.

  • We were about ready to begin the study of logistic functions and carrying capacity, when a student mentioned that a studio in the Pacific Science Center was showcasing herd immunity in action. The very next week, we visited the studio and afterwards, a student asked if I would be interested in talking to his grandma, a virologist. While George had already aligned his history curriculum to study epidemics at the same time as we were leaning BioMath, Kelsey taught the students about the differences between viruses and bacteria. Interdisciplinary learning was taking a new meaning, when I reached out to a world-renowned virologist and researcher of coronavirus. What an opportunity it has been for each of my classes to hear in person her dramatic story of the SARS epidemic!

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No amount of gratitude is enough to all of my partners in philomathy (whom I cannot all mention in such a short piece) , but the incredible paths that our students are carving with their help will be the heartfelt thanks that merits them. The level of this support is inspiring to say the least, and these examples showcase but a few of the many parents and guardians who have supported our work. What amazes me is the dedication and commitment that our speakers show to our students. While I am conscious of their time and already full schedules, they offer to hold multiple workshops rather than one, so that our students get the most out of these learning opportunities. It could be an encouraging tweet, or a kind note of appreciation, or a euphoric introduction during an Open House that their children are loving this curriculum and this school; but no gesture of our parents goes unnoticed.