I never learned what Pi was in my public education in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I said that out loud for the first time yesterday. I was identified as “gifted,” but I was Latina and poor in failing schools in my beloved Southeast Los Angeles. I didn’t learn any math after the 5th grade. I remember Ms. Miller tried in high school, but I had to have been so far behind there was nothing to do.
I’ll never forget how Carlos Asencio desperately tried to help me, but I just didn’t “get it.” He was a math genius, two years older, and tried tutoring me. I failed two remedial math classes at East Los Angeles College because I lacked the fundamentals. I learned what the number Pi (π) was after I earned my master’s degree at UCLA.
I’m one of hundreds of thousands of kids who didn’t learn math in school. And we showed up every single day. And we are the descendants of incredible mathematicians who discovered the concept of zero! Putting my own story out there has been both painful and powerful. But I’m sharing my experience so we can talk about both educational equity, excellence, and educational quality.
Yesterday, I texted my two comadres to ask them when they learned about Pi. They learned about this number in elementary school. I was heartbroken all over again, because for years, I thought my elementary school experience was solid. I learned today that it was not. This revelation has added more fuel to this ranfla fighting for education excellence and for the little Almas and Armandos in public schools today.
We can’t let these systems have free passes anymore. We must demand excellence by any means necessary.
Alma V. Marquez
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