founder's statement
In the 1990s I was in charge of a program that provided HIV counseling/testing and syringe-exchange services to
female street-walking sex workers all over New York City. Forty percent of our clients were HIV positive—a truly
disturbing statistic. But the fact that almost 95 percent of them had no high school diploma or equivalency certificate
was almost equally troubling to me. To a woman, they all told the same story: having struggled with math in high
school, that struggle continued in the GED preparation programs they attended. The women said that, since these
programs focused primarily on the four GED subject tests that were literacy-related (reading, science, social studies,
and writing), they were able to pass these tests the first time they took them. But the math...well, they failed the math
test the first time they took it—and then failed it over and over and over again. The women said that the GED
preparation programs offered very little in the way of mathematics instruction; most of the teachers didn't seem to
know much math and none of the teachers seemed comfortable teaching math. And, despite the fact that everyone
they knew who couldn't get a GED certificate couldn't get it for the same reason (an inability to pass the math subject
test), there wasn't a single GED preparation program in the City that focused on math or had qualified math teachers.
Our clients were stuck "in the life" because they couldn't "do the math."
When I founded Helicon, Inc. (the Mathematics Resource and Support Center for Females), the plight of our clients
was foremost in my mind.  But, it turns out, their plight is the predicament of the vast majority of females who take
take high school equivalency tests in New York City:  They fail the TASC Mathematics Subject Test at
disproportionately high rate (see our report) and support for math-focused preparation programs is still non-existent.