A high school math teacher discusses the documentary Top Secret Rosies: The Female “Computers” of WWII. Beyond the awe for these women who took part in American military operations as human computers during World War II, this contributor is inspired by a statement made by one of the women in the movie, crediting her high school math teacher for her interest and advanced skills in mathematics.
In 1942, soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a secret military program was launched to recruit female mathematicians to be human computers. These women were pulled from high schools and universities, and their work computing the trajectories of U.S. ballistics was critical to the success of our military operations.
A handful of these women are interviewed in the documentary Top Secret Rosies and I was drawn in when one of the Rosies said that she credits her high school math teacher, Miss Clark, for her interest in advanced skills in mathematics.
As a lateral-entry high school math teacher, who’s been in the classroom only two years, I’ve thought a lot about Miss Clark. I wonder who I would have been in 1942, and would I have had the strength and confidence to be one of these young women? Would I have had the spirit to encourage young women to accept these jobs if I had been their math teacher? My mind then brings me to today. Am I doing everything in my power to engage and energize my students, so that they are open to their own potential and any opportunities that may come their way?