Name: Angela McIver
Business: Trapezium Math Club, a math club for elementary school students
Industry: Children’s Goods & Services
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Reason for starting: I received a PhD from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. My dissertation research looked at older students with weak math foundations (all the math they should have learned in elementary school). I had been collecting video data of students talking about all the ways they were confused about math and spent 4 years training middle and high school teachers on ways to remediate these students.
Then, my own children started elementary school. They attend the top elementary school in our city but when my daughter was in 2nd grade, I sat her down and interviewed her (like I had been doing with older students) and found her lack of math understanding astounding. I realized that if I didn’t do anything immediately, she would need my services when she got to middle school. I started a math club for my daughter and some of her friends out of my house. Soon other parents asked if they could send their kids to me. I turned the 4th floor of my house into a giant classroom. I hired teachers and developed challenging math activities. Soon our wait list was over a year and growing. I decided to find a commercial space, got an architect, remodeled over the summer and moved in this September 2014. We filled every one of our classes and hope to continue expanding (we also continue to train teachers and sell our engaging math products to schools).
How do you define success? On a personal level, I wake up everyday excited about the work that I’m doing. We are figuring out just how far you can push kids in math (pretty far) and I’m constantly amazed at how happy children are when they are being challenged at a high level. Here is a trailer for our math club (we were formerly called Monstermathclub and changed our name this year to Trapezium). On a business level, I would define success when I pay off my business loan and can put myself on salary. I would love to expand my business and am considering a franchise model. For quite a long time I was steadfast in my resolve to work with teachers and schools to change math education, but have found that it is very difficult to gain traction in schools. Parents are much easier!
Biggest Success: A parent came up to me the other day and was talking about her neighbor’s child who is currently in high school. This young lady was telling her about an after-school math program she participated in when she was in elementary school that was a defining moment for her. It was the reason she felt so confident in math. When the parent asked if I knew what program she was talking about I said “Of course, it was my program and I remember that young lady very well!” It made my week!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? My biggest challenge has been trying to “boot strap” a business with a husband who wants me to just “get a job.” The biggest challenges with my business have always been personal. If I were single with no kids I wouldn’t have half the challenges I do. But, if I were single with no kids, I wouldn’t have this business that I love.
Who is your most important role model? My grandfather. Whenever I’m faced with challenges (particularly related to being an African-American woman) I just remember that my grandfather was run out of town by a lynch mob because he was too “uppity.” But that didn’t stop him from suing the state of Texas for the right to vote in the Democratic Primary. I say to myself, “He wasn’t afraid and neither am I.”
Edited by The Story Exchange