In 1996, I briefly taught Math at an all boys' high school in Jamaica. I was the third math teacher students were having that year. The Vice Principal who introduced me joked that if I left they would have no math teacher for the rest of the year. I met some wonderful young men that year, but one 9th grader stood out. He was the smartest student in the class and he also generously helped other students. I thought he would go on to great things, kind of like the Jamaican version of Elon Musk.
Two years after I left to pursue my Masters at University of the West Indies, I ran into a Math teacher from the school. I smiled as I asked about the student, who was now in grade 11. To my shock, she said that this particular student didn’t do anything at all. It is an understatement to say I was shocked and confused. How could THIS happen to THIS kid? He was, in my view, not only hardworking but also tremendously gifted. I went to see the student to ask what had happened. He said that he tried very hard to understand math in grade 10, but didn’t understand it, so by grade 11 he had given up. Like this student, there are many, many, very bright students who, for one reason or another, are not learning math in their classrooms. The teacher may be reaching other students, but one teacher and teaching style may not be received well by all students. Students who are not being reached need alternate supports.
Some families pay for tutors or extra lessons in this situation, but not all families can afford to do that. Though there are free resources on the internet, they are simply not working for every child and many students sit in school with no effective options.
Reggae Math Foundation would like to give these students different options. There are currently great teachers sharing their love of math all over the world. They teach with a chill and relaxed vibe and they pass this love and relaxed interaction with math onto their students. I believe that had my former student had an option, such as the ability to view not one, but several teachers, he would have seen someone who worked for him.
Reggae Math Foundation is crowdfunding to pay for the filming and production costs for a set of videos. These costs include paying for videographers, editors, and more. If we raise more than the goal, we will be able to film more classes and more teachers. Videos will be placed in an online library at reggaemath.org that is freely accessible to the public.
Reggae Math teachers are those of whom students say “They are the reason I understand math or they are the reason I got a math degree” and things of that nature. Every child deserves to see great teachers. Please sign up for our mailing list to support our campaign by learning about and sharing our activities with anyone who is interested in education and economic development for underserved communities.
Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.