Genevieve Esmende

MATHCOUNTS Monthly, February 2023

Genevieve Esmende, a longtime teacher and club leader at Wangenheim Middle School in San Diego, CA, served as the 2020-2021 DoD STEM Ambassador for UC San Diego CREATE with a focus on the National Math Club. In this role, Genevieve helped transition several National Math Club activities to a digital format, so teachers could use them in Google Classroom. She also led numerous outreach activities in the Greater San Diego area.

We interviewed Genevieve about how she recruits for and leads MATHCOUNTS programs at her school and how she has shared MATHCOUNTS with other teachers in her area. Read the full interview below!

Gen Esmende

On sharing MATHCOUNTS with other teachers...

You’ve worked with lots of teachers in the San Diego area to help them get their National Math Clubs started. How did you connect with these teachers and support them in bringing this program to their students?

As part of my role as the DoD STEM Ambassador for UCSD CREATE, I wanted to spread the word to other teachers about the amazing resources from the National Math Club. So, I did a virtual 3-day professional development where teachers could experience the 3 types of math club activities: games, explorations, and problem sets. Teachers got to experience the resources that I converted to be accessible online due to online teaching during the beginning of the pandemic. From this experience, teachers could see how these activities can either be used in their classrooms or encourage them to start their own math clubs at their school sites. Recently, I’ve been able to do this professional development in person at conferences, which has made it more fun for teachers to experience these activities with other teachers.

On recruiting students to participate in MATHCOUNTS...

For someone who is just starting out in MATHCOUNTS programs, what advice would you offer on how to recruit a diverse group of students, including students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, to participate?

I would recommend introducing MATHCOUNTS activities in the classroom and letting students know that they can experience more of these activities by attending the math club. Also, invite students that you notice have a strong interest in mathematics, especially if they are a student who is traditionally underrepresented in the STEM field.

On making the MATHCOUNTS experience fun...

You’ve organized and hosted middle school math events in your area with high participation and positive feedback. What advice would you give to MATHCOUNTS coaches, club leaders and team advisors for making their students’ MATHCOUNTS experience positive and fun?

I want my students to have a positive and fun experience when doing math. I try to create a positive and fun environment by having students work together, especially when they are problem solving around mathematics. Also, my students have enjoyed many of the MATHCOUNTS games during the math club. Also, I’ve used some of the problem set questions in an Escape Room or in an Amazing Race-style competition, which students have really enjoyed working on together.

On advice for new program leaders...

What do you know now about leading a MATHCOUNTS program that you wish you had known in your first year?

Reaching out to MATHCOUNTS has been wonderful for supporting teachers with their clubs and providing help they may need with the activities or clarification on the activities. Also, give yourself time to learn how to facilitate the activities. The activities don’t take too much prep, but make sure to read the directions and see what materials you need prior to meeting with the students.

On expanding your participation to other MATHCOUNTS programs...

This is your school's first year participating in the Competition Series program, but you've participated in the National Math Club for multiple years. Based on your school's experience, do you have any suggestions for MATHCOUNTS program leaders who are considering taking on another MATHCOUNTS program for the first time?

Initially, I wasn’t confident in participating in the Competition Series, because I wasn’t sure how to best prepare my students for the competition. However, after working with the math club these past few years and getting support from a high school student who wants to be a MATHCOUNTS coach, I felt I was ready to take on the Competition Series with my students this school year. The high school student is a MATHCOUNTS alum and has experienced the Competition Series when she was in middle school. She has been working hard coaching my students for the upcoming competition. I’ve also been implementing the Problems of the Week in my classroom for additional practice.