This Creator’s Math Content Adds Up To A Huge Following
Happy Pi Day! If it’s been a while since you’ve been in a math classroom, pi (or π) is a mathematical constant with infinite digits, usually shortened to 3.14. That’s why March 14th (3/14) has become a celebration of math recognized worldwide.
Math may not be the first topic that comes to mind when you think about creators, but Stephanie Yi has been able to build an active online presence on her blog and her Instagram and TikTok accounts, with 37k and 33k followers respectively. And that’s just her side hustle. When she’s not busy creating, she’s a 7th grade math teacher based in Southern California. We recently caught up with Stephanie to discuss her work in the classroom and online — and to remember Pi Days past.
Watching the opportunities add up
Stephanie first created her blog and instagram account during a particularly difficult year in a new city. She shares, “I didn't know anyone and I didn't feel like a good teacher. I started posting online about a few things that were happening in my class because I was inspired by other teachers that I followed. It is so helpful to have that community.”
Stephanie’s virtual community of other math teachers has led to some unique opportunities. She befriended other teachers online and they met in person at a conference hosted by Texas Instruments, where they adopted the name The SQUADdratics.
After the TI conference, the SQUADratics were inspired to create their own virtual conference called Beyond The Mean (“Because we’re not average!”). For the past two summers, the Beyond The Mean conference has allowed math teachers to connect and communicate about their practices. “A lot of us identify as being people of color.” she adds, “I love that we're a diverse female led math conference.”
Dividing (and conquering) in the classroom
Stephanie often uses real-world applications of math in her lessons. “Recently I’ve thought a lot about my seventh grade math teacher,” she recalls. “We did a project where she had us create our own budget, and it was eye-opening to use what we learned and apply it in the real world.” Stephanie wasn’t inspired by just one teacher, however, but by experiences she had in all of her classes. She says, “Maybe I won't stand out to my kids, but my lessons might.” That helps me think about how I plan lessons and what I do in my class on a daily basis.”
Stephanie finds that getting her students moving helps keep them focused, especially during remote learning. Scavenger hunts became a staple of her virtual classes, and she used online games to keep students on task. She shares, “The biggest thing is getting students to understand the math. If students feel comfortable with the topic they get excited. That's always my goal: for students to understand what they're doing and to give them the support they need to be successful.”
Solving the equation for work/life balance
With a full-time teaching job and active online community to serve, Stephanie says prioritization is key. She says, “It's easy to put my job and online community ahead of my home life. I've learned to think about what's most important and focus on that.” She also helps her students find balance by providing breaks for activities and giving them space to help one another.
Stephanie’s students will always come before her work as a creator, but her classroom experiences do inspire her online content. She stresses that the online world is very different from an actual classroom. “It's curated,” she explains “It looks perfect because it's been formed that way. In my classroom, things get messy. That's not easily conveyed through social media.”
Although Instagram only shows pieces of Stephanie’s life as a teacher, she’s grateful to her community for boosting her confidence. “In real life I'm not good about sharing things I'm proud of,” she says. My platforms are things I have control over. It's taught me to put myself out there and share what I've done.”
Calculating Pi during COVID-19
While looking forward to celebrating Pi Day 2022, Stephanie shared a memory from her last in-person Pi Day in 2020. “We had students memorize the digits of pi.” she shares, “If they memorized and recited 20 digits, they got a slice of actual pie.” That particular pi day happened to be on Friday, March 13, 2020, which ended up being the last day of in-person school for months before school shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “That was a very memorable Pi Day,” she recalls.