The summer before Pamela Sussman Paternoster went to college she worked as a playground supervisor in an African American neighborhood in Canton, Ohio. Taunted by teenagers from the neighborhood, Pamela endured the summer of 1971 by dodging rocks and bottles. "I made a million mistakes and assumptions that summer, but it changed my life forever."
Growing up with a strong Jewish identity in a small mid-western town in the 1950's, Pamela was used to being in the minority. Upon graduation from Ohio State University, Pamela became the first white teacher assigned to an all black school in Cleveland during desegregation.
In 1982 Pamela moved to Massachusetts and took a job at the King Open School in Cambridge. It was here that she met Bob Moses — an icon in the Civil Rights Movement. Passionate about mathematics, Moses asked staff at the school to pilot a curriculum he developed which would help middle school students transition from arithmetical to algebraic thinking. Those pilot lessons turned into what is now The Algebra Project — a program that aims to help African American, Latino, and poor students develop math skills that are vital for entering college. As a program manager for the Project in Cambridge, Pamela's work has included program design and implementation, evaluation and community organizing throughout the country including the Mississippi Delta. Believing that "mathematics literacy is a civil right", Pamela and her collegues have helped the Project reach approximately 10,000 students and 300 teachers across the United States.