Members of Turlock High club find empowerment through math

12/04/2013 12:00 AM

12/03/2013 1:30 PM

Few students exemplify a commitment to excellence more than the young women of Turlock High’s Math Club. Time after time, they can be found taking advantage of their high school years to discover their passions, hone their abilities and explore career options.

It’s no surprise, then, that on a recent Saturday, eight of them joined nearly 100 other high school girls for the 2013 Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day at California State University, Fresno. The event, which spanned nearly seven hours, was designed to encourage a greater female presence in mathematics and mathematics-related fields.

From delving into knot theory to exploring the principles of polyhedrons to finding the geometry in origami designs, the student attendees got to participate in a wide range of activities that hammered home a deeper appreciation for all that math has to offer.

Caroline Martins, one of the advisers of the THS Math Club, says, “The activities the students did promoted critical thinking and inquiry-based learning, giving students a taste of where the math world is headed.”

But the students also learned where the math world has been, particularly with regard to the long period of time when the field was hardly receptive to women.

After all, Sonia Kovalevsky, whom the event was named after, endured countless setbacks before finally obtaining her doctorate in mathematics in the late 19th century.

Turlock High senior Tonya Pruitt appreciated this element of historical context that the Nov. 16 event provided. “After hearing men’s names so regularly in math, it was a breath of fresh air to hear about a woman and her endeavor to study math,” she says.

Near the end of the event, a group of nine female panelists shared their own stories, filled with advice for navigating through high school and college. The panelists, who included professors, engineers and researchers, took particular care to highlight the various contemporary career avenues that a study of math can lead to.

To top off the event, three lucky girls got to walk away with the newest versions of graphing calculators, thanks to the generosity of local businesses and organizations recognizing the promise of mathematics if girls are part of the journey.

Jordan Cotton, a math teacher at Turlock High, says, “It was so neat to see so many young women get together, share a love of math, and find some inspiration to pursue it.”

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