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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


Shepard ’89 wins Intel award for innovative math program

By Greg Brewis

Tracie Shepard ’89 in her classroom
Balancing a checkbook. Figuring sales tax. Buying a car. All are life-skills essential for navigating the modern world—but if you’re a high school student and don’t know the ropes, who do you turn to for help?

At Puyallup’s Emerald Ridge High School it’s math teacher Tracie Shepard ’89.

“Just before Christmas, in my third year teaching trig, I overheard my students saying that they didn’t know how to figure a 30 percent discount,” Shepard said. “They were taking items to the cash register to see what the cost would be.

“I was astounded. Here they were, successfully learning trigonometry, but they didn’t know how to do the math for leaving a tip or paying sales tax.”

The revelation prompted Shepard to create an innovative math program that teaches high school students about economics and personal finance. Last spring the program, “Questions About Money & Personal Finance? Let’s Get Some Answers,” won the Intel Corp.’s DuPont site 2001 Innovations in Teaching Award. The program was given a $25,000 grant and Shepard herself received $10,000.

The Questions About Money program presents basic concepts about money, personal finance, the working world and the way math and economic concepts apply to life in general.

Over the four high school years—in mathematics classes from pre-algebra through pre-calculus—students take a day or two out of each quarter to study one of the 20 units Shepard developed. The topics become more complex as students progress, from how to buy a car and how to calculate credit card interest to how to buy your first house or invest in IRAs and stocks.

“The students work in groups of four, but each student is individually accountable,” Shepard said. “It’s not like some group work where one student can carry the others. Each student must do his or her own part. They then come together to evaluate and complete the group project.”

Shepard will use the Intel grant to train other Puyallup School District high school and junior-high math teachers in administering the program.

As for the $10,000 Shepard received? She’s planning to pay off a few bills and then take a trip with her husband and three children.

“We’re going to Disneyland.”

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