My name is Jessica Schenkel and I am an upper school math teacher. I started my career in the Berkeley County school District working at Stratford High School for two years (2008-2010). For the past nine years I've been teaching at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC (2010-2019). I taught AP Calculus BC for all nine years at Porter-Gaud and rotated between teaching Algebra I, Algebra II, and Honors Algebra II/Trigonometry for the first six years. I started teaching the course outlined on this website, FST (Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry), three years ago as an alternative to a traditional precalculus course. In 2016, I assumed the role of Department Chair of the Mathematics Department at Porter-Gaud, which gave me a unique vantage point as I had the opportunity to work with mathematics teachers from first through twelfth grades. I am passionate about mathematics education and have designed this website to share educational resources with other educators. In the 2019-2020 school year, my family will be moving to North Andover, Massachusetts and I will be working at Brooks School as a math teacher. I'm thrilled about my new position and excited to have the opportunity to work in such a dynamic school.
About the Course
For years I watched my school offer an Algebra 3 course for students who struggled in Algebra 2 the previous year. It was a decent option for those students as they needed a year to build confidence and revisit many of the requisite skills and concepts that are needed to be successful in any upper level secondary mathematics course. However, it was painful for all involved. The students felt like they were being punished - essentially taking another year of Algebra 1/2 and not moving into Precalculus with their friends in their class. They usually lacked motivation and it was difficult for the teacher to inspire these students with the curriculum. We knew there had to be something better, but we didn't know what. In 2015 I applied for a faculty grant that is sponsored by the Parents Guild of Porter-Gaud School and they awarded me money to go to the Anja S. Greer conference on Mathematics and Technology. (If you're looking for a professional development opportunity this is one of the best https://www.exeter.edu/programs-educators/summer-conference-general-information/anja-s-greer-conference-mathematics-and). It was there that I met Nils Ahbel after he presented on his Alternative to Precalculus course resources. We weren't able to offer the new course in the 2015-2016 school year, but we presented a new track in our overall program that includes a course called Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry (FST) with additional branches to College Algebra, Probability and Statistics, and Discrete Math as senior semester elective options. We are in our third year of offering the FST course and the benefits are extraordinary. As a math teacher, it is rare to have the freedom to let the students guide your instruction and this curriculum allows me to do that. I love seeing my students gain confidence and excel in an area they've never felt they belonged. I love seeing their intellect be noticed and rewarded within the walls of the "math wing." Most of all, I love seeing my forty to forty-five students succeeding in their senior Precalculus, AP Statistics, or semester electives with a new appreciation for mathematics and its uses. This year a graduating senior wrote, "Thank you Mrs. Schenkel for giving me confidence in myself that I am not stupid and I can do math - it means more to me than you will ever know." While I'd love to take all the credit, I believe its the spirit of the course and the dynamic curriculum that lends itself to help educators recognize their student's intellect and allow them to use math in a way they believe is interesting and useful.
The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) started in 1983, led by the longest serving and current director of the project, Zalman Usiskin. The project brought together authoring teams who wrote mathematics textbooks for grades K-12. From 1991-1995, Nils Ahbel (then working at Kent School) was on the authoring team for second editions of three UCSMP textbooks: Advanced Algebra, Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry, and Precalculus and Discrete Mathematics. While working for UCSMP, Nils gained invaluable experience from the guidance and mentoring of Sharon Senk, Steven Viktora, and Zalman Usiskin. In 1998, Nils began teaching at Deerfield Academy where he taught with the UCSMP, Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry (FST) textbook. With the knowledge and blessing of Zalman Usiskin, Nils began rewriting FST to be a virtual, open-content (free) textbook, based on the USCMP text, but with new math topics, problem sets, data sets, PowerPoints, instructional videos, and projects. In 2004 and 2006, Gloria Barret of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, was the Wilson Fellow at Deerfield Academy. During both those school years, Gloria edited all of the materials in Nils’ version of FST and greatly improved the course, particularly in the area of statistics. In 2013, Lauren Nelson worked with Nils as both an editor and author, focusing on improving content in Bivariate Data Analysis, Modeling with Trig Functions, and Probability. In 2018, Nils asked Jessica Schenkel of the Porter-Gaud School, to take over as editor and author of these materials. In 2019, Jessica moved to the Brooks School in Massachusetts. Most of the word and pdf documents created for unit lessons were created by Tori Kuchler, currently teaching at Porter-Gaud School.