Because I opened the box!
In 1980, I was the “rookie” in a large math department of a northern suburban Chicago high school. One day, the UPS delivery man left a big white box next to my desk which was closest to the door of the math department office. Since I was the newest (and youngest) teacher in the department, I didn’t think it was my place to open the box but after three weeks of this mysterious white box sitting next to my desk, I stood up and declared to the other math teachers, “If no one is going to open this box, then I am going to open it!” No one told me not to, so I opened the box… and it was the school’s first computer, an Apple computer!
Shortly thereafter, the math department chairman called me into his office and told me I was to teach Basic computer skills to my 11th grade algebra 2 students. I asked why he chose me and he said, “Because you opened the box!” There I was, with a thin book from which to guide my students and for six weeks we learned basic programming together. It was exhilarating for both me and my students –all the trial and error –and the successes.
A few years later, a local software company contacted the department chair for a recommendation for someone to write tutorial math software (by hand, not by computer) and he suggested me. They offered me $6000 and I was over the moon with delight to do it. But then, after I saw the finished product, I didn’t even want my name attached to it – there were so many mistakes!
So, I started thinking that if I could find some authoring software, I could write and program the software myself. In 1988, HyperCard came out and by 1992, I was spending 15-hour days writing and programming until I finished writing an entire year of high school geometry. My husband said, “Are you going to keep this to yourself or share it?” That’s when I started selling what I’d written even though my plan was to write the entire high school curriculum. I kept writing but found that there wasn’t a very large market for advanced math when my award-winning master teacher mother suggested I write Basic Math software which she felt had a larger market. I followed her suggestion and wrote software for fractions, decimals, percents, pre-algebra, and basic geometry principles – she was correct – the school, home, and adult education markets loved it and ordered it. I had a real business!
Today, my company, MathMedia Educational Software offers some 50 different software titles that have been used by thousands of students across the country. And all of this is because almost 40 years ago, I opened the box!
Illana Herzig Weintraub
MathMedia Educational Software, Inc.