Kentwood — Teaching math at the most diverse high school in the state was the impetus for Luke Wilcox and Lindsey Gallas to start three open-source math curriculum websites and the brand new Math Medic Foundation.
“This has very much been influenced by my (and Gallas’) work at East Kentwood High School,” said Wilcox, who teaches AP Statistics there. “It was revealed to us that some students have many more advantages than other students. Those disadvantaged students need support.”
They joined forces to launch free online math lesson sites to address gaps in achievement and improve access to resources, both nationally and locally, including among their own students. They started Stats Medic seven years ago; Calc Medic three years ago; and in August broadened their efforts to launch Math Medic. The newest site offers free lesson plans – designed and tested with real students from East Kentwood – for all 9-12 high school math courses. Those include Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry and Precalculus.
“Math Medic was our big move to the wide world of math teachers, rather than just AP Calc and AP Statistics,” Wilcox said. “We are already starting to build a nice community of teachers that are using the resources.”
To further enhance their mission, the teachers this month officially launched the philanthropic arm of their efforts. The Math Medic Foundation is a public charity focused on awarding funds to students and educators in the field of K-12 mathematics education.
‘My number one goal was to just have the ability to get resources into students’ hands. The Math Medic Foundation is going to help us do that.’– Math Medic co-founder Lindsey Gallas
The foundation is funded completely through tax-deductible donations, which can be made through the site. Executive Director Pete Grostic, a former middle school and high school teacher in Kentwood Public Schools, said individual donations will 100 percent go toward scholarships and teacher and school grants.
Students can apply for scholarships; teachers can apply for grants to fund professional development opportunities; and schools as a whole can apply for grants for resources.
Reaching Students Who Need It Most
Gaps in math achievement are striking and pervasive. The overarching goal of the foundation and lesson sites is to improve outcomes, Wilcox said.
“In terms of math education, outcomes are not the same for certain subgroups,” he said. “African American, Hispanic, low-income (students) and English-language learners are not performing at the same levels as white and Asian cultures. We know that’s not anything to do with biology, but is most often a result of lack of access to resources, and it’s the lack of resources that is actually creating the achievement gap.
“We want to try to impact that side of the equation: the connection to resources. We feel like if we can even out the access to resources then we will see changes in the outcomes in terms of achievement gaps.”
Through the Stats Medic site last spring, the group granted two scholarships for students going into math-related fields. One was to Jacobi Thompson, an East Kentwood High School 2021 graduate who is pursuing computer science at Grand Valley State University, and the other to Isabella Medina-Silva, a student in California. Now, with the foundation launched, they will award at least two more $2,000 scholarships this spring.
‘In line with our idea of equity in math education, we want students to have access to resources, but we also want teachers to have access to high quality teaching materials.’— East Kentwood math teacher and Math Medic co-founder Luke Wilcox
Gallas, who taught AP Statistics for seven years at East Kentwood, now works for Math Medic full time. She said the need to support students was evident in her classroom.
“I saw students doing the best they could, but college tuition and expenses would be a roadblock,” she said. “My number one goal was to just have the ability to get resources into students’ hands. The Math Medic Foundation is going to help us do that.”
Lesson Plans by the Teachers
On Calc Medic, Stats Medic and Math Medic, lesson plans are offered for every day of the school year for each class. “All of our lessons are student-centered and activity based,” Wilcox said.
Gallas, Wilcox and former East Kentwood calculus teacher Sarah Stecher designed all the lessons. They also blog about teaching tips based on their experiences delivering the lessons.
The sites and foundation all support improving math education, Wilcox explained.
“Making our lessons free is in line with that idea of equity, because it doesn’t matter what school district you come from or how much money your school district has for curriculum, any teacher on the internet can access the lessons and use them in their classroom.
“We want teachers to have access to these high-quality lessons, so ultimately that benefits their students,” he added. “That’s in line with connecting resources with students who need them the most.”