Melanie Young‘s passion has always been educating and exciting kids about math.
The longtime teacher within the School District Philadelphia is a native of West Oak Lane, and up until the pandemic hit in March 2020, spent her time in middle and high school classrooms. When schooling went virtual early last year, she began to see the gaps in learning, she said.
Over last summer, she launched Infinite Mind Tutoring a way to help fill those gaps for students learning at home, or who transitioned to home schooling because of the pandemic. While she specializes in math education — often one of many kids’ least favorite subjects, she jokes — she’s since expanded to tackle any subject students might need.
“I wasn’t getting tons of questions about the content or standards, but mostly basic math skills,” Young told Technical.ly. “There were a lot of moms of girls struggling with this.”
She began working on a forthcoming book called “I’m a Math Girl,” featuring a young Black girl who learns how math is used in everyday life. The book was a good start for representation, Young said, but she wanted an actionable curriculum to pair with it. Out of this work came Math Girl Movement (MGM), which helps girls build their basic math skills and helps them see themselves as mathematicians.
"I see myself in most of these girls."
“When we talk about students not having access to STEM careers, we have to look at where students start misidentifying themselves with those careers,” Young said. “Often, it’s the math classroom.”
Young dove into research showing that as early as first grade, math anxiety is brewing in young girls in a way it doesn’t for young boys. By fourth grade, those effects really start to show, she said, in lower grades and less enthusiasm for the subject. Math Girl Movement aims to bring a more inclusive curriculum to girls around this age.
For a long time, math curriculums have best served a white, middle class classroom, which often leaves minority girls out, Young said. The MGM curriculum relies on teaching through song, movement and more visual approaches, like “finger perception,” or using your hands, to count. Young also pairs the girls with mentors that they likely already interact with in their everyday lives to show how they use math or how it’s used in their careers.
While the programming is currently focused here in Philadelphia, it’s not exclusive to Philly public school students, Young said. Adults interested in getting their child into to curriculum, or just learning more, can reach out to Young through MGM’s contact page.
“I see myself in most of these girls. As a young girl I didn’t feel I was great at math,” Young said. “Now, having graduated with my undergraduate and and masters degrees from Penn, now teaching math, I think about sitting down to do homework, knowing that I could do it, but just knowing my teacher wasn’t teaching the way I needed to learn.”