The W celebrates women in mathematics with annual Sonya Kovalevsky Day event
While Sonya Kovalevsky might not be a household name, it is nonetheless extremely significant.
Kovalevsky was a pioneer for women in the field of mathematics, paving the way for many who followed. This contribution has been celebrated by Mississippi University for Women for more than 20 years, and this year is no different.
The Sonya Kovalevsky High School Mathematics Day will be held Tuesday, Oct. 3 beginning at 8 a.m., on The W’s campus.
“The event is hosted by our mathematics faculty members here at The W. It is aimed at high school girls as well as mathematics teachers, male or female. We open with a keynote speaker, who sparks student interest in mathematics by choosing topics that might interest high school students. We also host our own small group break-out sessions for students to explore mathematical concepts that don’t always come up in the classroom, involving games, puzzles and hands-on activities,” said Dr. Joshua Hanes, associate professor of mathematics and organizer of the event.
The keynote speaker this year, Dr. Clifton Wingard, is no stranger to The W, having taught at the university from 2019-2021 before retiring.
Wingard will give a “Talk about zero” to those in attendance.
In addition to the educational talks and breakout sessions, there also will be the opportunity for the girls to take home some prizes, including scholarships to The W.
“There is a competition exam that students take for a chance to win prizes. We have been able to award scholarships to The W and TI-Nspire calculators. This year, Texas Instruments is providing four-year access to some of their software,” Hanes said.
The event was established at The W to encourage high school girls to pursue mathematics as a field of study.
“Sonya Kovalevsky Day at The W was started more than two decades ago by Jane Wenstrom, supported in part by a grant from the Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM). We celebrate and honor her academic achievements and contributions to the field by encouraging young women to follow their own interests in mathematics,” Hanes said.
Letters are sent to schools within a two-hour drive of the university inviting them to participate. Schools must register and provide a list of the students and what grade they are in by the Sept. 25 deadline.
Anywhere from three to seven schools participate each year and organizers estimate there will be between 65-90 students participating this year.
Hanes said, “I have found over the years that the amount of mathematics that high school students encounter before coming to college is such a small portion of what they will need in order to pursue a career in the field. It’s less about awareness of opportunities and more about understanding that mathematics isn’t just about ‘doing math.’ It’s about making the world around you easier to understand. By studying mathematics, students develop the mental discipline to focus on abstract concepts, manipulate them in their heads and use these skills to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Having a strong foundation in mathematics also makes it easier to transition into any STEM field.”