Paloma Noyola: The Face of Mexico’s Unleashed Potential
When a report emerged in September 2012 that a girl from one of Matamoros’ poorest neighborhoods had attained the highest math score in Mexico, some doubted its veracity. It must be fake, they said.
But it wasn’t fake. Her name is Paloma Noyola, and what most reports failed to mention is that almost all of her classmates also scored very high on the national math test. 10 scored in 99.99% percentile.
Paloma and her classmates also scored in the top percentile in language. Something special was happening at José Urbina López primary school in Matamoros, and Wired went to take a look.
The high test scores turned out to be the work of a young teacher who also came from humble beginnings. Sergio Juárez Correa was tired of the monotony of teaching out of a book and wanted to try something new to help engage his students when he came across the work of Sugata Mitra, a UK university professor who had innovated a new pedagogy he called SOLE, or self organized learning environments. The new approach paid off.
Although SOLE usually relies on unfettered Internet access for research, Juárez and his students had very limited access. Somehow, he still found a way to apply Mitra’s teachings and unleash their potential.
From the beginning, Paloma’s exceptional abilities were evident:
One day Juárez Correa went to his whiteboard and wrote “1 = 1.00.” Normally, at this point, he would start explaining the concept of fractions and decimals. Instead he just wrote “½ = ?” and “¼ = ?”
“Think about that for a second,” he said, and walked out of the room.
While the kids murmured, Juárez Correa went to the school cafeteria, where children could buy breakfast and lunch for small change. He borrowed about 10 pesos in coins, worth about 75 cents, and walked back to his classroom, where he distributed a peso’s worth of coins to each table. He noticed that Paloma had already written .50 and .25 on a piece of paper.
As Mr. Juárez implemented more of Mitra’s teachings in his classroom, Paloma continued to stand out as an exceptionally gifted student:
Juárez Correa was impressed. But he was even more intrigued by Paloma. During these experiments, he noticed that she almost always came up with the answer immediately. Sometimes she explained things to her tablemates, other times she kept the answer to herself. Nobody had told him that she had an unusual gift. Yet even when he gave the class difficult questions, she quickly jotted down the answers. To test her limits, he challenged the class with a problem he was sure would stump her. He told the story of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the famous German mathematician, who was born in 1777.
When Gauss was a schoolboy, one of his teachers asked the class to add up every number between 1 and 100. It was supposed to take an hour, but Gauss had the answer almost instantly.
“Does anyone know how he did this?” Juárez Correa asked.
A few students started trying to add up the numbers and soon realized it would take a long time. Paloma, working with her group, carefully wrote out a few sequences and looked at them for a moment. Then she raised her hand.
“The answer is 5,050,” she said. “There are 50 pairs of 101.”
Juárez Correa felt a chill. He’d never encountered a student with so much innate ability. He squatted next to her and asked why she hadn’t expressed much interest in math in the past, since she was clearly good at it.
“Because no one made it this interesting,” she said.
Although this Wired piece focuses mostly on Sugata Mitra, it does once again highlight the story of Paloma Noyola. Unfortunately, after a brief spurt of media attention, little on Paloma was ever mentioned and, as was pointed out by Wired, nothing was ever said of Mr. Juárez.
As with most stories in the Mexican press — and with in the middle-class — things suddenly become very important once it’s featured in a gringo publication. Which is a very sad commentary. We hope, however, that this story pushes those in the press, state and federal government to look not to the United States for validation but to Mexicans like Sergio Juárez doing good work in places like Matamoros.
The clear message in this story is that there are thousands of Paloma Noyolas going to school in Mexico who, just like her at one time, are not being challenged and therefore aren’t very interested in school. This story can, if we want it to, raise enough awareness to shift the discussion from poverty to opportunity.
Paloma truly personifies both Mexico’s challenges and unleashed potential.
Read the entire Wired story here: How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
Editor’s note: As an addendum, Wired provided information on helping support Sugata Mitra and his School in the Clouds project, and although they donated school supplies and equipment to José Urbina López School, we’re interested in seeing if we can help set up a similar fund for Sergio Juárez, the teacher featured in this story.
Also, $9,300 was raised to help fund Paloma’s education last year. We going to follow with the economist who led the fundraising campaign to see how she’s doing. Stay tuned for updates.
Orgullo mexicano es una sequía bien mala, en especial a nivel educativo. Esto es bellísimo!
This is such a compelling story!
This whole thing is great. It’s also great that Wired featured a young Mexican girl on their cover. They historically have sucked fucking ass at diversity on their covers — as of a few years ago (when they finally got taken to task publicly over it), they’d only ever featured 3 women, all white, and very few men of color.
Wired is having a little renaissance right now. I really enjoy my subscription and can’t wait for this issue.
Oh my god this is so cool :’) Tales of pedagogy done right really light everything up and inspire me like almost nothing else can. Math teaching in particular. Math is so beautiful, and the fact that little kids get to experience this is spectacular.
haha, that kanye sure is arrogant. i mean, sure, he clawed his way out of adversity to promote self-esteem and challenge masculine norms, but as a white man i demand to know: what gives him the right to act like me?
Bringing these back because it’s that time of year again.
Linnea’s story: Beating a Brain Tumor
Please help 4-year-old Linnea recover from her brain tumor by raising funds for her medical expenses and childcare for her 2 little brothers
Our 4-year-old daughter Linnea Joy is a brilliant, beautiful, and loving soul full of sass and spirit. Linnea was diagnosed with a brain tumor on October 7th, 2013. Three days later, she had a 17-hour surgery at Mott Children’s Hospital, and the heroic neurosurgical team removed the large tumor from her cerebellum.
Linnea is an amazing big sister to two little brothers: Desmond is 19 months old and her newborn baby brother Griffin is 1 month old. Linnea loves holding “Baby Griffin,” as she calls him, and insists on helping take care of him and Desmond. She does such a great job teaching Desmond how to be a good big brother, and her kindness, generosity, and sense of humor inspire us every day.
Since Linnea has been in the hospital, we’ve been trying our best to keep Desmond’s care and schedule as consistent as possible, but it has been a major challenge. It has also been difficult to care for our newborn baby while being at the hospital 24/7 and supporting Linnea through many painful and frightening procedures.
One reason that we are asking for your support is so that we can provide the best childcare for Desmond and Griffin while we are helping Linnea fight her brain tumor and recover from surgery. Linnea has a long battle ahead of her, and we want to be with her every step of the way. To do that we need to be able to trust that Desmond and Griffin are being loved and supported by the people who know them best. Your donation will help us provide that extra childcare in the months to come.
We will also be adjusting our work schedules as we move forward, and Scott will need to cancel several professional events in order to be at home for Linnea and our family. Scott is a summer camp director and consultant and travels frequently to speak at conferences and provide trainings. Your support will allow us to stay together and help us make up for that lost income. With your donation we can also ensure that we will be able to cover the many medical expenses associated with her treatment and rehabilitation.
Linnea is an incredibly strong little girl and she has been so brave throughout this ordeal. She continues to amaze us on a daily basis. We believe in her strength and spirit and we hope that we will get through this together. Thank you for listening to our story.
PLEASE REBLOG AND SUPPORT!
Linnea’s parents are some of the kindest, most caring, inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I’d love to be able to help them get some of that same love and support back that they put out in to the world constantly!
PLEASE SIGNAL BOOST THIS
Fuck, I never even thought about this.
please please please please reblog this i need a signal boost!
my friend is moving back to Seattle from Chicago in ONE WEEK and she has to leave her baby behind. meet Bila - she is just under a year, caliby (calico tabby!). she is spayed and has a clean bill of health (has everything but FiV). she is so so sweet and loves to play and suckle her blanket. her tail is like a fricken raccoon tail. she is free, naturally, and just really needs a home before my friend flies out.
please reblog or pass this on to anyone in Chicago who wants a kitty!!
I can attest to how adorable this cat is! please please please signal boost because we need to find sweet Bila a home before Sunday morning or she will have to be given to whatever shelter will take her for free :(
even if you can only hold her temporarily, that will buy us some time to find a stable permanent home. this move was very sudden/unexpected and her owner is absolutely heartbroken.
you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested. I’m not the owner, but I’m her friend/coworker.
Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes
For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.
It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.
The maternity package - a gift from the government - is available to all expectant mothers.
It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.
With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.
Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.
The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.
Socialism at work.
I would rather my tax money pay for this than drone missiles.
GIVEAWAY IN CELEBRATION OF THE NEW POKEMON *CONFETTI*
reblog ONCE only
MUST be following me (yes its ok to follow even after this is made)
use multiple accounts if you want
YOU WILL RECIEVE:
1 SILVER 3DS XL
1 POKEMON X (or) Y (your choice)
ENDS ON HALLOWEEN (31st, GMT 10+ TIME)
LEAVE YOUR INBOX OPEN
must be comfortable with snail mail (sending me your address)
am i forgetting something? dont be afraid to shoot me an ask, cutie!
(sorry this is so short and to the point, i just want to make it less painful for yall to read, rather than those really long ass giveaways we all cant be bothered to read)
But if you take into consideration the bitter hatred that I had
Then you may be a little patient and more sympathetic to the situation
And understand the discrimination"
Eminem, “Rap God”
The lyrics here kind of speak for themselves. But what I really want to point out is that Eminem gets away with calling himself a ‘rap god’ and people fawn all over him like he’s the Second Coming — but Kanye says he’s the biggest rock star (ie. rappers are the new rock stars) on the planet and people SHIT THEMSELVES.
Very sad. However, non-adult females should not be allowed to be at a male friend’s house unsupervised by a parent, and certainly not past dinner-time. It should always be assumed by parents that a male child will attempt to have sex with any and all of their female friends. It’s just the way it is, no matter how good the child’s upbringing. Human nature is unchangeable."
- The “male child” here was a 17-year-old boy who was legally an adult in Missouri at the time he raped a minor.
- I refuse to believe that every teenage boy is a rapist waiting to happen, and the only way to prevent rape is by never leaving teenage boys alone with teenage girls. For one, I know lots of men who never did this, and for another, how low of an opinion of men do you have to have to think this way about them? And people say feminists hate men…
Some men rape because they haven’t been taught to respect women’s bodily autonomy and because they’ve been taught, as is obvious here, that there will be no consequences for their actions, especially if the person they hurt is seen as an outsider.
This is a situation where a young man preyed upon a girl, specifically picking someone who was vulnerable—she was much younger and because of her outsider status wanted very much to be liked by a cute, popular football player—and then abusing her horrifically in front of his friends because he knew he could get away with it. This is a situation where a young man encountered someone he knew he could victimize and within a week lured her to his house, got her drunk and possibly drugged her, and then raped her while his friends watched. That is not the result of a chance encounter between a woman and a normal (i.e non-rapist) man (not that rape ever is.) That is pre-meditated rape committed by a rapist.
You know, I’m amazed how we don’t judge the choices that rich white men make. Look at how we don’t prosecute bank executives who illegally foreclosed on middle class families and rigged international lending rates. Look at how we defend mutli-million dollar pay packages for CEOs running their companies into the ground and yet scrutinize even a 10-cent increase in the minimum wage. Look at how we make excuses for male politician after politician who drop their pants and then make comebacks (pun intended!).
But poor women, especially poor women of color, immigrant women—we judge every choice they make. We judge them if they have children. We judge them if they get abortions and don’t have children. We don’t care that General Electric doesn’t pay any taxes— but we care that poor women of color collect public assistance AND have too nice of a cell phone."