“When will I ever use this?”

Math students have been asking educators this very question for decades. And yet, it has long been reported by Brookings (Loveless, 2008) and others like the Algebra Project (Moses, 2001) that Algebra I is the gatekeeper to higher level math classes, higher education success, and careers in the technical fields. It is a commonly-held belief that algebraic concepts are directly related to critical thinking skills. So, what is the disconnect?

We have hovered our proverbial mouse over the 21st century now for two decades. Yet, our education system and structure had shown little to no trace of modernization. Bells rang, people moved. An agrarian calendar is used to let our students “off” for the summer to help with…wait, for what?


Enter stage left, a worldwide pandemic. Our educators have been upskilled, the resources and environment have been retooled, and the technology-assisted curriculum has been modernized.

And while the staff, students, and families are stressed as we continue to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, visionary leaders have the chance to be the architects of what post-pandemic education should look, sound, and feel like.

Asking students, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is no longer an adequate question to address the future of our students. Students must have a Future Self Vision. Regardless of their circumstances, they should be able to see themselves in the future. What quality of life do they envision for themselves and their families?

Shannon M. Cox is 12th Superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center and the first female Superintendent in the organization’s century-plus long history. She is a nationally recognized Superintendent who has been characterized as a Leader of Leaders. Candice Sears is the Director of Instructional Services with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center whose focus is on transforming educational outcomes. She is recognized as a leader of innovation and influence in education.

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