Math Prize for Girls Thrives at MIT
Math competitions are nothing new. They’ve taken place for years, but participants have been predominantly boys.
Two years ago Advantage Testing Foundation, the public service arm of Advantage Testing, a private tutorial service dedicated to the highest academic excellence, launched Math Prize for Girls. The competition is designed to inspire girls, create a network of girls with a passion for math and encourage those girls to become mentors for others — particularly girls in underserved communities.
The third annual competition took place Saturday at MIT. First place and a $25,000 prize went to Victoria Xia from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. Second place and $8,500 (including a $1,000 Youth prize) went to last year’s winner Danielle Wang of Westmont High School in Campbell, Calif. Julie Huang of Lynbrook High School in San Jose, Calif., finished third, receiving $7,500.
On hand for the award ceremony for the winners and other girls from the competition who were honored were girls from in and around Boston.
“We reached out to public school teachers, math teachers and math coaches in the area and encouraged them to bring their students to our award ceremony,” says Dr. Mary O’Keeffe, co-director of Math Prize for Girls.
While Math Prize for Girls has been very successful — this year’s competition had 276 participants from 36 states and four Canadian provinces (approximately a 30 percent increase from 2010) — organizers see that they are not getting a cross section of ethnicities. Therefore, a priority has been placed on outreach efforts and instilling in the participants a desire to pay it forward.
“We encourage the students who are in that math competition world to go out and volunteer as student coaches in schools that don’t offer these programs,” O’Keeffe says.
Co-director Dr. Ravi Boppana taught a program this summer at Bard College for New York City public school students. Any girl from that program who goes on to qualify for Math Prize for Girls will have all her expenses for traveling to the competition paid.
“It’s not enough to just provide financial support. You really need to go out and share the skills and knowledge to do math,” O’Keeffe says.
MIT sophomore Kate Rudolph, who participated in Math Prize two years ago (finishing in the top 10) and served as assistant director this year, does just that. She volunteers one day a week with an organization called Bootstrap that partners with after school programs for middle schoolers. Using algebraic concepts, Rudolph teaches kids how to program video games.
Read more at DiverseEducation.com