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Awesome things from 2020

Future of Math Topics in High School

I was able to attend briefly the Data Science Summit at Stanford organized by Dr. Boaler and Steven Levitt. Mr. Levitt makes a point in this article that “A mathematical way of thinking, numeracy, data literacy, is far more important today than it has been; the ability to visualize data, the ability to make sense out of a pile of numbers, has never been more important, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the math curriculum.” His key point is that should the way we teach mathematics in school be centralized around data and computing.

There is a strong emphasis on calculus in most schools including two AP tests which test one’s competency in calculus. Calculus progress determines which students are the most advanced in mathematics in high schools and it has been like that for a very long time now. I believe that calculus foundational skills are absolutely necessary for many physical and social sciences besides college mathematics. However, given where we are as a society and how much digital data is generated every day, I agree that statistics/data science should be emphasized in the high schools and offered as a choice. I personally see this in addition to calculus and not in lieu of. Let’s see how the rollout of  Introduction to Data Science course that was co-developed by UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District is received. Also, we as a society will need to figure out how to train teachers around the country to be able to teach such courses.


Achievement isn’t why more men are majoring in physics, engineering and computer science

I have been always impressed by the research of Dr. Cimpian on gender equality in STEM and the insights he has provided over the past few years. “Dr. Cimpian’s research focuses on the use and development of novel and rigorous methods to study equity and policy, particularly concerning language minorities, women, and sexual minorities,” as per the NYU website.

There are a few STEM majors where the female-to-male ratios are well balanced but in Physics, Enggineering, and Computer Science (PECS) including Pure Mathematics, most colleges report a lot more men (4x to 5x) as compared to women. As per the recent research that got published in Science, NYU researchers found that the ratios are not imbalanced because men are performing better in STEM subjects in high school or related standardized test scores. However, the researchers found that “men with very low high-school GPAs in math and science and very low SAT math scores were choosing these math-intensive majors just as often as women with much higher math and science achievement.”

This is really surprising to me and something I would have not believed. I know there are potentially many reasons why women are not choosing these majors which could be related to their sense of belonging and inclusion in these fields. This study suggest that “interventions to close the gender gap may work to attract high-achieving women; yet, something beyond these student factors may be attracting low-achieving men and repelling average- and low-achieving women, and without addressing those factors, it is unlikely that the PECS gender gap will fully close.”


Congratulations to Jessica Wan and all the Maryam Mirzakhani Award Winners!

It is so encouraging and rewarding to see all the amazing girls recognized across all of the MAA 29 sections. Jessica Wan who is in the 8th grade at Saint John’s School in Puerto Rico will win $5000 for her perfect score. Congratulations to everyone! MAA did a nice job of notifying everyone and I also saw some schools recognizing the award winners via their local publications. It is nice to see so many middle school girls winning the award as well.

The award winners’ names on one page and the announcement from MAA is here.

Reminder of Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10A Prize and Awards qualifications:

Mathematical Association of America (MAA) received support from Awesome Math Girls, an organization dedicated to making mathematics and problem solving more appealing to girls in middle and high school levels. The funds will support a prize and awards, honoring the top-performing female students on the MAA American Mathematics Competition (AMC) 10A. This year’s top-scoring U.S. female from AMC 10A will receive the Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10A Prize of $5,000. Additionally, the five top-scoring AMC 10 A U.S. females from each of the 29 MAA Sections will receive Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 certificates in honor of their performance on the AMC 10A. The Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10A Prize of $5,000 will be presented to a student at the yearly Mathematical Olympiad Awards Ceremony in June.


Excited to announce $5,000 AMC10A Prize for Girls!

Since last year, I have been trying to figure out how to encourage even more girls to participate and excel in AMC competitions. This time I was more focused on the high school ones as the participation rates have been dropping from AMC 8 to AMC 10. When I figured it out, there were many people who helped to make it a reality. I would first like to thank the wonderful MAA staff – especially Ms. Jennifer Barton and Dr. Rachel Levy who were instrumental in ensuring the right way to do this at scale as well as helping with the ongoing logistics for the next few years. Dr. Yahya Tabesh was very helpful with the idea formulation, and of course I am very grateful to the late Dr. Mirzakhani’s family for permitting us to name the prize in her honor.

I am really excited that the Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize will be a $5,000 scholarship to the top scoring AMC 10A girl and will be presented at the yearly prestigious Mathematical Olympiad Awards Ceremony. In addition, we will be recognizing top 5 scoring AMC 10A females in 29 MAA sections nationwide.

Here is the MAA Announcement:

Mathematical Association of America Launches the Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize and Awards to Support Women in Mathematics

WASHINGTON, DC (Dec. 5th, 2019) — The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) received support from Awesome Math Girls, an organization dedicated to making mathematics and problem solving more appealing to girls in middle school and high school levels. The funds will support a prize and awards, honoring the top-performing female students on the MAA American Mathematics Competition (AMC) 10. The prize and awards will be given yearly to students who self-identify as female while taking the AMC 10A.

“AMC 10 and AMC 12 high scores are still achieved by more boys than girls even in this decade. My humble hope is that this prize encourages and motivates more girls to participate and excel in math competitions in high school,” said Meera Desai, creator of Awesome Math Girls organization.

According to a 2019 National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) report, over the past two decades, the share of women receiving bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics has declined. Women remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past. This prize is designed to motivate females interested in mathematics and serve as an inspiration to break through the mathematics glass ceiling.

“I am truly grateful to the Mirzakhani family and Awesome Math Girls for their support of the Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize. As a woman of color, I truly understand the importance of seeing yourself in role models, mentors, and leaders that we lift up. I hope the prize shows young female students that they too can be pioneers and leaders in mathematics,” said Jennifer Barton, director of competition operations at the Mathematical Association of America.

About Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize and Awards

Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize and Awards are named after Maryam Mirzakhani, an inspirational mathematician and professor of mathematics at Stanford University. “Dr. Mirzakhani achieved so much at such a young age and defied all the odds on her journey to mathematical excellence,” said Meera Desai. Mirzakhani was the first female honored with the Fields Medal , the most prestigious award in mathematics and she is an IMO gold medalist with a perfect score. Mirzakhani’s accomplishments laid the groundwork for aspiring young mathematicians and she is quoted by Stanford News saying “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.” On 14 July 2017, Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40.

The Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Prize is a $5,000 scholarship to be presented at the yearly Mathematical Olympiad Awards Ceremony to the top-scoring AMC 10A female nationally. The Maryam Mirzakhani AMC 10 Awards are certificates provided to the five top-scoring AMC 10A females from each MAA Section.

If you are interested in supporting this initiative or other programs at the MAA visit our website. Learn more about this prize and stay updated on the award announcement.

About MAA

The Mathematical Association of America is the world’s largest community of mathematicians, students, and enthusiasts. We accelerate the understanding of our world through mathematics because mathematics drives society and shapes our lives. Learn more at