I See Future Me

I See Future Me

Connecting amazing Mathletes to diverse, inspiring role models who share their stories about finding their path to STEM.

Envisioned and supported by the MATHCOUNTS Executive Roundtable.

The MATHCOUNTS Executive Roundtable is an initiative created to innovate and improve MATHCOUNTS programming. Members discuss important issues in STEM education and collaborate to come up with creative solutions to challenges.

We know STEM has no race, ethnicty, income level or gender—so all of our students should know they can succeed. But we see and hear from students in STEM programs, including some of our own talented, passionate Mathletes, that sometimes they still don't feel like they belong.
There were 5 of us 6th graders left for the last spot on the team, and I was the only girl. I was extremely nervous. I wanted that spot, but I was doubtful. My competition was 4 boys, and they always seemed to win at these things. My coaches were boys, they picked mostly boys for the A Team...I knew that I had scored higher than the 6th grade boys on the test that decides competition, but I was still very anxious. 
When I got there [to the chapter competition], I was very intimidated because the majority of the competitors were boys. Another thing that really made me nervous was that I was the only Hispanic there competing.
Attitudes about math only will improve if we take a frank look at our programs and change that. Waiting to see if our students' feelings simply change over time isn't enough. Our students are tomorrow's problem solvers and we need them to succeed today.
 
Change can start with ensuring our students know STEM heroes are diverse—and have the opportunity to hear their stories at MATHCOUNTS competitions. That's why we created I See Future Me.
What Is I See Future Me?

I See Future Me

I See Future Me is an initiative to increase the number of diverse STEM professionals who volunteer and speak at MATHCOUNTS chapter and state competitions. We are lucky to have passionate coaches who already serve as mentors in the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series, but the goal of I See Future Me is to increase the visibility and accessibility of diverse STEM role models who can:
  • Connect with and inspire our Mathletes from various backgrounds.
  • Break down stereotypes about race/ethnicity and gender in STEM as members of many different groups, including those currently underrepresented in STEM.
  • Break down stereotypes about different paths to math by talking about challenges they faced in their own journeys. 

Why Do Role Models Matter?

Research has shown a confluence of factors contributes to underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM. One important piece of that is how societal factors and personal experiences influence our interests, self-confidence, self-efficacy and choices in STEM. While many of us think of things like preferences as innate, in reality a lot of things can influence what we like: feeling like we belong, feeling like we're good at something and even the opinions of others. Simply put, stereotypes and media portrayals about who "is" and "is not" a math person have power. So do negative experiences like discrimination. Fortunately, positive experiences with parents, teachers and role models, matter, too.
 

Learn More

There is a lot of illuminating and important research—past, recent and forthcoming—on role models, self-efficacy and representation in STEM, and we encourage you to learn more! Listed below are just a few of the articles we found useful and interesting while putting together I See Future Me and creating the graphic on the right.
 

Get to Know More of Our Future Mes

We'll add ISFMe role models throughout the year, but figured we'd start with some of our own amazing, diverse STEM role models. Check back soon to meet STEM professionals engaging with MATHCOUNTS students in their local communities and sharing their stories.

Kera Johnson

Senior Manager of Education, MATHCOUNTS Foundation

Washington, DC

 

My Path to Math: For about as long as I can remember, I have loved math. I was the star student in math class all through elementary school; I was always eager to solve math problems; I attended Oxon Hill Science and Tech (a STEM magnet school that I had to test into). But it really wasn't until I went to Spelman College (a historically black college for women) that I was around other girls who looked like me and were smart in math. That was one of the things I liked most about Spelman—before college I felt like I was a unicorn, and it was just so nice not to be.

 

After college, I began working in database management and later became a software engineer for a financial institution. I liked these jobs, but deep down, I knew I wanted to become a math teacher. My time in education included two positions as an Albert Einstein Fellow at the National Science Foundation—first as a liaison between program directors and secondary teachers, and next as the leader of a conference to support educators doing their own research. I liked knowing that my work helped create programs for teachers that were collaborative and truly useful in practice (not just in theory). After NSF, I came to MATHCOUNTS and I've been here ever since!

 

Why My Job Is Awesome: My work at MATHCOUNTS combines a lot of what I've enjoyed most in my STEM journey: I get to collaborate with other math content experts who write, edit and proofread our math problems, plus I get to create resources for a program that helps other students like me realize they're not alone in loving math. Most of all, I like getting to show a fun and challenging side of math. It's not "this is what you have to learn because the state says you need it to get your diploma." MATHCOUNTS is not cookie-cutter. It's creative.

Kristen Chandler

Executive Director, MATHCOUNTS Foundation

Falls Church, VA

 

My Path to Math: I always enjoyed math in school, and I just assumed everyone else did, too! I liked the feeling of working and getting a problem right…each correct problem felt like a success. When considering a career, I knew I wanted to teach, but I didn’t really feel strongly about what I would teach. In high school, my counselor suggested I focus on math because I was “fortunate enough to enjoy it” and it was a lot easier to get a job teaching math than teaching other subjects. While I don’t think those were the best reasons to pursue my degree in mathematics and secondary education, I am so glad I did! My degree and certification have opened up so many doors.

 

Why My Job Is Awesome: When I started at MATHCOUNTS, I worked on the math materials, so I did thousands of math problems a year. What job could be better? Working on the School Handbook, I became such a better problem solver, which shows MATHCOUNTS works for both kids and adults. Over the years my responsibilities have changed, but I still love that I am working each day to enhance the math education of students. I am also unbelievably fortunate to work with the amazing team at MATHCOUNTS, as well as the volunteers around the country who make it all happen.