This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.
“People always joke that the Pythagorean theorem isn’t going to help you in the real world,” chuckled Ashley Perez, a 2019 Ánimo College Prep Academy (ACPA) alumna. “It’s not the actual formula, but the problem solving and critical thinking that it calls for that actually helps you in the real world.” Perez hasn’t always felt this way about math--when she was in eighth grade at a nearby middle school, she scored a level one on the state’s exam, failing to meet third grade proficiency in math. By her junior year at ACPA, Perez displayed remarkable growth: she met grade level proficiency in math on the state assessment--growing eight grade levels in three years!
Perez credits her growth to the teachers at ACPA: “They have challenged me along the way and I’ve learned so many things from them.” At Green Dot, our goal is to promote conceptual understanding, procedural literacy and meaningful strategic problem solving that extend beyond math classes. In the classroom, Green Dot math teachers pose challenging problems that are relevant and can be approached in a multitude of ways. They promote “productive struggle” to empower students to seek solutions while providing support and guidance along the way.
To prepare students for the rigors of college, our schools provide opportunities to earn college credits through Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In her senior year, Perez was enrolled in AP Calculus AB, a course that is equivalent to a semester of calculus at most colleges and universities. The challenging course helped Perez explore the limits of what she can do.
In the fall, Perez will be a freshman at California State University, Fullerton where she hopes to join the university’s nursing program. While people don’t often associate nursing with math, nurses regularly use mathematical formulas and critical math skills in their daily work. “Nurses use math to deliver medications, but they also have to solve problems every day and that's where I feel my math skills will be useful,” said Perez. While she career will likely not make daily use of the Pythagorean theorem, Perez will be able to draw from the creativity, knowledge, and empathy she developed at ACPA as she embarks on a new chapter of her life.