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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 lifeskills
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 prealgebra through
precalculus—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 juniorhigh 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.”
