Mind Food: Olga Serebrennikov and Math Altitude Take Thinking to New Heights

I commented to a fellow and very friendly Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce member at a local food drive recently that downturned faces are everywhere. I see those sad, stress-etched faces in grocery store aisles, on sidewalks and in cars driving by on the road. My Chamber friend Karen smiled and agreed.

There’s no doubt there are lots of reasons to be concerned these days. The economy’s been weak for years. Jobs are tough to come by – I know that personally. A good chunk of the world is either at war or right on the brink. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve always believed, no matter how tough the situation, there’s got to be a bright side, and I LOVE when I see, feel or experience it! I’ve already started to profile some of those bright sides when I wrote about a fellow Westborough resident and restaurant reviewer, Gary Kelly, who’s since become a trustworthy and very reliable friend. I’ve also written about a friend I met through the Internet years ago, Marie Cruickshank, who runs a uniquely personalized and personable travel service. Every time I hear from her, she’s always positive, even if she’s dead-on positive she’s “up to her eyeballs” with work.

And then, really by chance, I met Olga Serebrennikov late last spring at an event hosted by local TV and radio talk show host Hank Stolz in Worcester. It was loud where we talked, but I understood that Olga ran an afterschool math enrichment program also in Worcester. Ok. And I would’ve let it drop, but I could see a spark in her eye and hear determined passion for what she was doing in her voice. I told her I’d like to check out her school sometime.

A few weeks ago I drove to her school right in the middle of downtown Worcester very close to where the old courthouse used to be. Her 2-year old two-room school is called Math Altitude, and for darn good reason. Olga doesn’t just provide remedial instruction or accelerated coaching; she teaches students how to approach the “what if”, which is exactly what forward thinkers do everyday. It’s not easy or even comfortable approaching and thinking about an unfamiliar, challenging abstract problem, but it sure is rewarding sticking it out, grinding away, failing – sometimes a lot – and then digging deep to come up with a reasonable solution. It’s exactly that kind of thinking that provides real examples of the best we can be.

That’s what Olga lives and brings to the table – all in a comfortably and humanly connected way – by inspiring her students to think logically and analytically and also learn independently in a safe and supportive environment. Olga’s highly educated with a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in electrical engineering. She’s applied that education to telecommunications and has been teaching math for 8 years. She knows she could’ve put her school in Shrewsbury or Westborough and competed handsomely with the more traditional tutoring services, but her head and heart took her to Worcester where she identified a problem with math underperformance, not just in the city but in the surrounding area – and now provides a solution.

It’s working. Her students are improving – and are having fun at the same time. I only saw a few kids as they started to show up for class when I visited, but every one of them had a bright smile on their face and were looking forward to getting started in class. Olga told me word of mouth is spreading. She’s confident about the future, and all you have to do is look at her own smile to know that confidence is all entirely genuine and positive. Terrific!

For more information about Olga and Math Altitude, just click this link or any picture on this page.

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