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ABC 7 KGO-TV Salute: SF Math Circle Teacher promotes love of math

  1. October 10, 2008
  2. Lyanne Melendez, Reporter
  3. ABC-7 KGO-TV

DAN ASHLEY, ABC 7 KGO-TV News co-anchor:

Imagine a generation of teenagers who think mathematicians are as hip as athletes or entertainers-- not in your lifetime you say. Well, a group of Bay Area math teachers is out to change that by showing kids that algebra and calculus can be cool. Here’s education reporter Lyanne Melendez with tonight’s ABC 7 Salute.

Download the Quicktime movie of the news clip.


Americans are quick to elevate athletes to a celebrity status, but when it comes to mathematicians, well, how many of them have gained that kind of notoriety? There are a few exceptions.

Mr. PAUL ZEITZ (San Francisco Math Circle): I was socially more popular than the captain of the football team, meaning that girls wanted to go out with me because I was captain of the math team, which is how it should be in every school.

MELENDEZ: Meet Paul Zeitz, he’s the founder of the San Francisco Math Circle a weekly after-school program meant to engage students with math in a fun way. Brianna Frank is a freshman at Mission High, she says math helps her make sense of her world.

BRIANNA FRANK (Student): We need to learn if the bank is giving you a big enough interest for the money that you have in there. And you need to learn how many pairs of clothes you need to bring for a seven-day trip. Just like every little thing you have to add up, times, division, to the second power; little things like that.

MELENDEZ: Angela Torres teaches precalculus at Mission. Once a week she works with the Circle program. The goal is to teach students how to problem solve and learn how to be intellectually creative.

Mr. KENTARO IWASAKI (Mission Math Circle): You’re presented with a situation, a problem, there’s not one way to necessarily come at that. You have a number of options. You need to weigh the options, you need to decide what you’re going to do and make a plan and go with it.

MELENDEZ: At 3:45 pm students get a quick dose of protein to fuel their brain. And then it’s time to work or do we dare say, have fun.

King Arthur, the legendary British leader was no mathematician. He selected his knights from his round table to perform important tasks. That selection was done by process of elimination and that’s what these algebra students will do now.

53 people participated and in the end, number 43 was the only one left standing. Now their minds go to work to try to come up with the algebraic equation to explain why number 43 was the remaining knight. LaKenya [Burke-Ray] and her team came up with the right answer.

This is what the equation looks like; maybe it’ll refresh your memory.

SF Math Circle is offered at no cost to students. That’s because two foundations here in the Bay Area are so invested in this program, they have offered to fund it 100 percent.

The San Francisco Math Circle is run by Berkeley’s Mathematical Science Research Institute. Bechtel and Moody’s are the two [foundation] sponsors.

MELENDEZ: Japan and South Korea are also on that list.

Mr. ZEITZ: Anybody who can learn to think on their feet and investigate things and ponder thins in a reasoned, contemplative way is going to get a good job.

Mr. ZEITZ: I’d like to make kids as nerdy as possible and be proud of it. Yeah. It’s what makes America great.

ASHLEY: And so we salute Paul Zeitz and all the members of San Francisco’s Math Circle for helping to get students excited about mathematics.