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Lattice multiplication is a method used in many classrooms today to multiply large numbers using a grid. Similar to the traditional algorithmic method of multiplication, lattice breaks the problem into smaller steps to allow students to see each digit independently in an attempt to create fewer mistakes. When I was in seventh grade, I had no idea what lattice multiplication was. It wasn’t until I spent five years in college, graduated, and began helping a 12-year-old girl with her homework that I learned the world that is lattice multiplication.

I love math, and have always had an interest in the never-ending world that is numbers, theorems, and shapes. This interest started in high school and even became part of my major in college. So when I graduated from Wright State University last June with a degree in middle childhood education focusing in math and language arts, it was no surprise. As I moved to Athens, Ohio to work as an Americorps VISTA with Good Works, I wondered how this degree would play a part in this new chapter of my life. How would my experience in the world that is academia become important in a homeless shelter?

I met Kayla when she moved into the Timothy House with her mom and sister a little over four months ago. It was cold out and she seemed shy and not totally comfortable with her new “home.” She lived at the shelter for a month before I asked her if she needed help with homework, and everyday she said no. Moving to a new town is tough when you’re young and is often reflected through performance in the classroom. So everyday she would come home with her mom and sister, eat a snack, and perch on the couch to watch a movie.

I noticed she was getting bored with the movies so I asked her to play a game of Scrabble. She reluctantly said yes and we continued this for a week. During one of these games, we got into a conversation about school and homework and I brought up again how I would be more than happy to help. She finally agreed and went to get her backpack.

So the routine changed from “Finding Nemo” after school to Egyptian architecture and calculating percents. Kayla is gifted with an ability to learn and question ideas, such gifts, if not encouraged, can get lost. Kayla taught me a new way to multiply using lattice and also how to slowly build trust. I have time to give her, time to listen and time to build hope in her life. I see God through these homework sessions. I see God move when she tells me she has moved from a failing status to an A student in two months. I see God everyday laughing and playing through Kayla. I simply pray this progress shows Kayla that she can do things, that she is worth something, and she has much to offer.


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