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About Math Academy

 

Our history

During the 2013-2014 academic year, Jason and Sandy Roberts were asked to coach their son's 4th-grade Math Field Day team at McKinley School. After developing their students' problem-solving skills and filling the gaps in their grade-level knowledge, the students' questions naturally expanded the discussion to include content normally reserved for the higher grade levels, and by the end of the year, the students had managed to learn most of the material found in prealgebra.

The following year, Jason and Sandy were given an opportunity to teach this same group of kids in the form of a three-day-per-week pull-out enrichment class. Given what they had already learned, the next logical step was algebra, which, due to their enthusiasm, they managed to master by winter break. Continuing on, the class delved into numerous topics in algebra II, geometry, functions, trigonometry, combinatorics, sequences and series, and even a little bit of calculus.

The next big step came when the superintendent, Dr. McDonald, made a surprise visit on the last day of class. Being a former math teacher himself, he was shocked at what he saw: 10- and 11-year-old kids competently and enthusiastically solving problems that most high school students would find challenging. It was at this point that Dr. McDonald asked Jason and Sandy if they would help him to create a district pilot based on their model. Together, they spent the next year formulating a program structure that would scale, yet enjoy the same level of success as the original class. There were obstacles to overcome of every kind, but after numerous delays and false starts a workable plan had come into focus. 

Meanwhile, Jason continued to push forward with the original group of students (now 6th graders), with the addition of a handful of the school's top 7th- and 8th-grade math students who were given a chance to test into the class. That year, they covered pre-calculus topics such as trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions, vectors and matrices, and probability, but more interestingly, Jason taught the students proof-based mathematics, a subject typically reserved for undergraduate math majors. And as it turned out, being able to showcase 6th graders doing proof-based mathematics was exactly what was needed to attract a Ph.D. mathematician as the program's first full-time instructor.

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The 2016-2017 academic year saw the kickoff of the Math Academy pilot, which debuted with 5th-grade-grade classes at McKinley and Sierra Madre Elementary School, 6th-grade classes at McKinley, Sierra Madre Middle School, and Washington Middle School, and a 7th-grade class at McKinley (Jason's original group). While all of the classes were even more successful than imagined, proving that the model was indeed scalable, it became clear that starting the program in 6th-grade made a lot more sense. Attempting to expand the program to the 5th grades of even half of the district's 18 elementary schools would be both financially and logistically intractable. 

This year is when Math Academy comes into its own. With the addition of an experienced and acclaimed AP Calculus teacher as the program's second instructor there are now 6th- and 7th-grade classes at the three middle schools and an 8th-grade class at McKinley. While in previous years the classes were either pull-outs or electives, the middle-school courses have now been approved by the PUSD board as sequenced courses and by the University of California as satisfying a-g requirements. The focus is now on solidifying the program at the middle-school level and planning out the optimal curriculum and structure for the high school program.

 

Meet the Math Academy Team

 
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Jason RoberTS

Jason majored in mathematics at the University of Chicago with plans of becoming a mathematician but got sidetracked into launching technology startups and building high-frequency trading systems. Not wanting to leave Pasadena for San Francisco, he infamously turned down the CTO position at Uber but instead opting to work as a consultant, designed and developed much of the company's original real-time technology, their global "air traffic control" and other foundational technologies. In addition to working on Math Academy, Jason spends his time advising startups and Fortune 500 companies on their technology strategy and product roadmaps.


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Sandy Roberts

Sandy has spent the last ten years on non-profit boards focusing on governance, management and fundraising. She has been a member of the board, and held leadership positions, for the Junior League of Pasadena, Young & Healthy and Pasadena Educational Foundation. She has chaired large event fundraisers for these organizations for the last five years which have brought in well over a million dollars for worthy causes.  Sandy got her undergrad degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and has always loved math.  She and her husband, Jason, have three busy kids, the oldest of whom is in the Math Academy program.

Our Instructors

CHRIS ANDERSON Chris is a product of PUSD. He went to Field ES, Eliot MS, and Pasadena HS. He received his BA in Physics from Occidental College and his MS in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley. He has a single subject credential in Mathematics from CalState Dominguez Hills. He is married to Ann Anderson a literacy expert teaching at Washington MS and has two kids, Ian Anderson 12 and Aiden Anderson 5, that attend Marshall Fundamental and Willard ES, respectively. He has taught all math courses from pre-algebra to AP Calculus BC. My AP Calculus BC class in 2006 all passed the AP exam. He enjoys playing and coaching basketball, fantasy sports, and mentoring former students.

CHRIS ANDERSON

Chris is a product of PUSD. He went to Field ES, Eliot MS, and Pasadena HS. He received his BA in Physics from Occidental College and his MS in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley. He has a single subject credential in Mathematics from CalState Dominguez Hills. He is married to Ann Anderson a literacy expert teaching at Washington MS and has two kids, Ian Anderson 12 and Aiden Anderson 5, that attend Marshall Fundamental and Willard ES, respectively. He has taught all math courses from pre-algebra to AP Calculus BC. My AP Calculus BC class in 2006 all passed the AP exam. He enjoys playing and coaching basketball, fantasy sports, and mentoring former students.

DR. HIREN MAHARAJ Dr. Hiren Maharaj earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at Penn State University in 2000. After a post doc in Vienna, he worked for about 10 years as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University. Over the past 5 years, he has held adjunct positions at San Diego State University, Claremont McKenna College, and Pomona College before joining the Math Academy. He has published papers in graph theory, number theory, discrete geometry, cryptography, and coding theory. At the university level, he taught a wide variety of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

DR. HIREN MAHARAJ

Dr. Hiren Maharaj earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at Penn State University in 2000. After a post doc in Vienna, he worked for about 10 years as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University. Over the past 5 years, he has held adjunct positions at San Diego State University, Claremont McKenna College, and Pomona College before joining the Math Academy. He has published papers in graph theory, number theory, discrete geometry, cryptography, and coding theory. At the university level, he taught a wide variety of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Our Board of Advisors

CHRISTOPHER R. BRAGG Partner, Arroyo Capital Management, LLC Christopher Bragg has over fifteen years in the finance industry, and is currently a Partner with Arroyo Capital Management, LLC. Prior to forming Arroyo Capital Management, he was with three other investment firms, including Pasadena's own Western Asset Management. Mr. Bragg, along with his partners, oversees the day to day management of three locally based investment funds that operate within the securities, real estate, and lending realms. In addition to Arroyo Capital Management, he sits on several Boards of Directors, consisting of a publicly traded company, a privately held company, and two Pasadena local charitable organizations. Christopher and his wife Laura have four young school-age children; Jack, Andrew, Elizabeth and Katelyn, all school-age and an important reason for his strong interest in the Math Academy program.

CHRISTOPHER R. BRAGG
Partner, Arroyo Capital Management, LLC

Christopher Bragg has over fifteen years in the finance industry, and is currently a Partner with Arroyo Capital Management, LLC. Prior to forming Arroyo Capital Management, he was with three other investment firms, including Pasadena's own Western Asset Management. Mr. Bragg, along with his partners, oversees the day to day management of three locally based investment funds that operate within the securities, real estate, and lending realms. In addition to Arroyo Capital Management, he sits on several Boards of Directors, consisting of a publicly traded company, a privately held company, and two Pasadena local charitable organizations. Christopher and his wife Laura have four young school-age children; Jack, Andrew, Elizabeth and Katelyn, all school-age and an important reason for his strong interest in the Math Academy program.

ADAM WIERMAN Professor of Computing & Mathematical Sciences at Caltech Adam Wierman is a Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Caltech where he also serves as the Executive Officer for the Computing and Mathematical Sciences department and the Director of Information Science and Technology.  He has published over a hundred scientific papers in fields ranging from computer science and electrical engineering to mathematics and economics.  His work has received numerous awards within academia, including "Best Paper" awards at a variety of top journals and conferences, and industry, including being named a Computerworld Honors Laureate.  He has a passion for teaching and has received the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology Teaching Award twice.  

ADAM WIERMAN
Professor of Computing & Mathematical Sciences at Caltech

Adam Wierman is a Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Caltech where he also serves as the Executive Officer for the Computing and Mathematical Sciences department and the Director of Information Science and Technology.  He has published over a hundred scientific papers in fields ranging from computer science and electrical engineering to mathematics and economics.  His work has received numerous awards within academia, including "Best Paper" awards at a variety of top journals and conferences, and industry, including being named a Computerworld Honors Laureate.  He has a passion for teaching and has received the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology Teaching Award twice.  

MICHAEL AMORI CEO, Co-Founder of Virtualitics Inc Michael Amori is the CEO, Co-Founder of Virtualitics Inc, an AI-driven data analytics platform in VR/AR. He is a Former Managing Director and head of a quantitative trading group focused on insurance markets at Deutsche Bank. Designed the group's data science and risk management systems. Lead author in published paper on insurance markets. Speaker at various industry seminars/conferences. Previously was interest rates derivatives trader at various large banks. He was also a researcher in nanotechnology at Caltech, where he contributed to two papers and obtained one patent. Interested in science education, especially for early childhood, as a way to reduce inequality. He is a member of the Board of Caltech's Finance and Economics Department (HSS division), judge at the LA County Junior High Physics Science Fair, member of the Board of an early childhood STEM school in Los Angeles. He has an MBA from Harvard, an MS in Applied Physics from Caltech, and a BS in Physics with honors from Columbia University.

MICHAEL AMORI
CEO, Co-Founder of Virtualitics Inc

Michael Amori is the CEO, Co-Founder of Virtualitics Inc, an AI-driven data analytics platform in VR/AR. He is a Former Managing Director and head of a quantitative trading group focused on insurance markets at Deutsche Bank. Designed the group's data science and risk management systems. Lead author in published paper on insurance markets. Speaker at various industry seminars/conferences. Previously was interest rates derivatives trader at various large banks.

He was also a researcher in nanotechnology at Caltech, where he contributed to two papers and obtained one patent. Interested in science education, especially for early childhood, as a way to reduce inequality. He is a member of the Board of Caltech's Finance and Economics Department (HSS division), judge at the LA County Junior High Physics Science Fair, member of the Board of an early childhood STEM school in Los Angeles. He has an MBA from Harvard, an MS in Applied Physics from Caltech, and a BS in Physics with honors from Columbia University.

 
ROBERT FLOE President of Floe Financial Partners Robert Floe is the president and CEO of Floe Financial Partners. His primary role is investment strategist. He spends many hours each week studying the geo-political-economic events that could impact client portfolios. He also continually monitors investment performance to select the appropriate funds for each client portfolio. Rob regularly meets with clients to keep them updated on their portfolios, planning concerns and overall financial well-being.  Robert has been advising private clients, charitable organizations and companies since 1987. He has served on the advisory board to the president of Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network. He has been a member of charitable boards in the community for the past 25 years. Rob is currently on the national board for Heifer International Foundation. He recently traveled to Vietnam to observe firsthand the programs implemented by Heifer Vietnam. He also is a member of a donor group called “Partners for Change” which raises funds for Heifer International. Rob is a member of Pacific Council on International Policy and frequently attends conferences to obtain investment intelligence. Rob graduated from Macalester College with honors, summa cum laude.  He frequently attends spiritual retreats and does vocal performances. 

ROBERT FLOE
President of Floe Financial Partners

Robert Floe is the president and CEO of Floe Financial Partners. His primary role is investment strategist. He spends many hours each week studying the geo-political-economic events that could impact client portfolios. He also continually monitors investment performance to select the appropriate funds for each client portfolio. Rob regularly meets with clients to keep them updated on their portfolios, planning concerns and overall financial well-being. 

Robert has been advising private clients, charitable organizations and companies since 1987. He has served on the advisory board to the president of Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network. He has been a member of charitable boards in the community for the past 25 years. Rob is currently on the national board for Heifer International Foundation. He recently traveled to Vietnam to observe firsthand the programs implemented by Heifer Vietnam. He also is a member of a donor group called “Partners for Change” which raises funds for Heifer International. Rob is a member of Pacific Council on International Policy and frequently attends conferences to obtain investment intelligence. Rob graduated from Macalester College with honors, summa cum laude. 

He frequently attends spiritual retreats and does vocal performances. 

MS. ELIZABETH D. JONES President & Co-Founder, Institute for Educational Advancement Ms. Jones has been an educator, researcher and administrator of educational programs for over 30 years. She holds a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern California and has completed doctoral work in the field of educational policy and learning theory. Ms. Jones served as the Associate Director of The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Director of the Western Region for ten years prior to assuming her current position.  While at CTY, Elizabeth served as Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Sally Ride and Dr. JoBea Way for a NASA and NSF sponsored educational initiative call KidSat. She received recognition from the National Diffusion Network for the creation and implementation of exemplary programs for underserved highly able students and specialized in the intellectual, social and emotional needs of students. Elizabeth founded the Institute for Educational Advancement in 1998. The organization’s first contract was to assist in the creation and implementation of the Davidson Young Scholars program.  She went on to lead in the creation of the Award-winning Yunasa summer camp for the gifted and the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship program.

MS. ELIZABETH D. JONES
President & Co-Founder, Institute for Educational Advancement

Ms. Jones has been an educator, researcher and administrator of educational programs for over 30 years. She holds a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern California and has completed doctoral work in the field of educational policy and learning theory. Ms. Jones served as the Associate Director of The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Director of the Western Region for ten years prior to assuming her current position.  While at CTY, Elizabeth served as Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Sally Ride and Dr. JoBea Way for a NASA and NSF sponsored educational initiative call KidSat. She received recognition from the National Diffusion Network for the creation and implementation of exemplary programs for underserved highly able students and specialized in the intellectual, social and emotional needs of students. Elizabeth founded the Institute for Educational Advancement in 1998. The organization’s first contract was to assist in the creation and implementation of the Davidson Young Scholars program.  She went on to lead in the creation of the Award-winning Yunasa summer camp for the gifted and the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship program.

 
 

Our supporters

The Bacon Foundation

The Foundation supports the study of the works and life of Lord Bacon and seeks to encourage scholarship having to do with him, his times, and his influence on chiefly science, law, political theory, and literature. The Foundation does so in part by underwriting lectures and other scholarly activities related to Bacon. More recently the Foundation has focused its support upon schools, colleges, universities, and research institutions in southern California, the intention being to disseminate a knowledge of Lord Bacon and to encourage the advancement of learning in those areas upon which he has had an enduring influence.

 

Pasadena Community Foundation

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The Pasadena Community Foundation helps donors maximize the impact of their charitable contributions — strengthening the community, preserving cultural resources, and assisting those in need.  PCF is proud to support the Math Academy through the Fefferman Initiative.

 

Pasadena Educational Foundation

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At the Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF) we believe strong schools build strong communities. For more than 45 years, we have been committed to building dynamic community partnerships to support our public schools. Being a vital part of our community enables us to provide essential resources and enrichment opportunities to every public school student in Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre.