Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Quarter is More Than Just a Fraction

I just posted this on my Algebra class blog, but I thought I'd share it here as well. You're welcome to play along with your classes as well (or do something similar). Or, if anyone out there would like to join me in matching what my students raise, just contact me.

Arapahoe, as you know, puts our collective might behind several causes throughout the year. Currently we are asking students and staff to bring in a toy for Toys for Tots (pdf). I encourage you to participate in that, not just by bringing in a toy, but also attending the wrapping party and going to Schmitt Elementary on December 15th to help distribute the toys.

But I also want you to think more globally in this class. If you happened to read my blog over Thanksgiving break, then you read about Kiva and Team Shift Happens. Here’s a brief description of Kiva:
Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
And here’s part of what I wrote on my blog about Team Shift Happens:
I lend $25 to an entrepreneur ($25 is the minimum they accept). But I also purchase two $25 gift certificates that I then email to two members of my PLN. I’m asking those folks to then do two things.

First, they can choose which entrepreneur to loan the $25 to. Then I’m asking them to consider doing the same thing – purchasing two $25 gift certificates and emailing them to two members of their PLN (with the same request that those folks continue the cycle, sending two Kiva gift certificates to folks in their network - a Kiva Pay It Forward plan).
Over break I also read this post by Chris Harbeck, a teacher in Canada, and I thought I would challenge you guys in a similar way – challenge each of you to bring in $0.25 a day for each day our class meets between now and the end of the semester. Conveniently, our class meets ten times before the end of the semester, so that’s challenging you to donate a total of $2.50.

I want to be clear – this is not a requirement. This has no effect on your grade. There’s no extra credit, nor will I berate anyone who doesn’t participate. This isn’t about you. Or about me. This is about helping empower people who haven’t had the same opportunities that we enjoy. Some folks think teenagers won’t do this kind of thing if there’s not a payoff for them in it – we’ll see if they’re right.

I wrote a couple of years ago:
Poor people in impoverished communities often don’t have access to financial institutions and capital, and microfinancing addresses this problem. It is especially helpful to women, who often are the key to raising families – and communities – out of poverty. It’s also my opinion that this is one of the best ways to help achieve peace in the world.
So I challenge you to bring in what you can. If that’s a quarter a day (or $2.50 total), that’s great. If it’s less, or more, that’s great as well. You can bring money to class each day expressly to donate, or you can simply find me during the day when you perhaps have some change in your pocket (after lunch?) and donate (no amount is too small – or too large). You can choose to participate yourself, or you can cajole your family and friends to donate some change as well if you want – it’s up to you.

Then I’ll match whatever you donate (up to $100 – I’m not completely crazy). So I’ll take the total of whatever you guys bring in by the last day we meet (our final is on Tuesday, December 14th), and match it with an equal amount, then I’ll take the total and lend it out on Kiva. (If you’d like to help me pick which entrepreneur to lend to, start looking around Kiva and let me know who you think we should fund.)

So, if you occasionally visit Starbucks, consider skipping it once in the next couple of weeks. Or perhaps you could skip that overpriced, not-really-very-healthy-for-you “energy” drink I see some of you drink in the morning. Or if you go out for lunch, skip the soft drink a couple of times. Not only will you be doing your body a favor by skipping one or all of these, but a minor deprivation for you could turn into a possibly life-changing loan for someone else.

It might only be a fraction of a dollar to you, but to someone in the developing world – it’s priceless.

Kiva - loans that change lives


  1. That's the kind of win-win action that I like to be a part of! I'll gladly contribute 50% of what Karl matches of his algebra students' contributions. --Linc. Fisch, Lexington, KY.

  2. Dr. Fisch,

    I'm from the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your blog, and it is nice to know that someone is making a difference. Don't worry I'm sure you can prove them wrong about the teenagers only wanting to give if they recieve something in return. Did you know that people who make less than 20,000 are more likely to give than those who make more than that? You reminded me of the fact that no matter how hard I think times are, there is always someone out there who needs more help than me. Thanks for sharing!


  3. I love Kiva. It's probably my favourite organization, one that I'll be introducing my students to next semester. I know, from first hand experience, that kids love to help people. My grade 10 class has set a goal of raising $20,000 for Schools for Schools by Dec. 17th, currently, we're over $10,000. Even though we may not reach our goal, they have worked hard and learned a lot. And from them, I have learned never to underestimate teenagers.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I have never even heard of anything like it and am entirely impressed.

    As a mathematics educator, your title caught my eye. "A Quarter is More Than Just a Fraction" intrigued me because I knew that this was a mathematics educator who thinks outside of the box, a highly valuable task. You taught students the value of a penny giving no minimum amount of donation. At the same time, I'm sure that you got their minds to think differently. This is going to affect their way of approaching mathematics in future courses. Another thing that I found admirable in this "assignment (for lack of a better term)" is that you told them that this was neither for you nor them, but for the needy. They learn what others may go through and work out of the kindness of their hearts.

    I now know how to connect community service with academics and plan to do so. Use it in other assignments so that students feel proud of learning from something that they helped produce. Please, keep on doing what you're doing.