Strength in Numbers

By Hannah Fitzpatrick ’21, February 8, 2019
Women in Math Day introduces young women to careers in mathematics.

For Saramoira Shields, associate director for the NASA/New York Space Grant Consortium, her love of math began thanks to her father’s need for some peace and quiet. 

“When I was in middle school, my dad got me a book on origami just to keep me out of his hair, and I remember thinking ‘this is so cool,’ because I could make different structures out of pieces of paper,” Shields said. “At that time, there was this whole field developing on mathematical origami, and once I discovered more about it I was blown away, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Shields was one of the several women who spoke at Ithaca College’s second annual Women in Math Day on Saturday, Feb. 2. Sponsored by the college’s Department of Mathematics, the event invites high school students to learn about interesting mathematical theories and hear from successful women whose careers involve math.

“We wanted to have this event as a way to reach out to the community and to encourage high school girls to be involved in math,” said Megan Martinez, an assistant professor in the math department who helped launch Women in Math Day.

 The daylong event began with an interactive session introducing the idea of game theory, which examines the mathematical model behind winning games. There was also a panel where women shared how they use math in their careers and discussed why it’s important for younger generations of women to study math. Panelists included Rachel Lee, ’14, research analyst at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University; Beth Frank, ’12, risk adjustment analyst at Excellus Health Plan Inc.; and math major Sam Todres ’19.

Emma Heritage, a geometry teacher at Jordan-Elbridge High School in Jordan, New York, brought one of her students to the event to show the student to the variety of career paths math can open up.

“We’re from a very rural school district and we really don’t have exposure to these kinds of opportunities,” Heritage said. “Our students being able to take part in this is very valuable for their future.”

Women in Math Day is aided by a grant from the Mathematical Association of America.