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MAA MathFest 2013 Town Meeting on Goals for Minority Participation in Mathematics

Town Meeting on Minority Participation in Mathematics

During the 2013 MAA MathFest, the Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics sponsored a Town Hall meeting to discuss ways to broaden participation in mathematics. Participants revisited the 42 recommendations developed by the 1988 MAA Taskforce and then separated into four groups, where each group discussed two of the original taskforce questions and shared ways in which we can as individuals address the problem of underrepresentation. Below is a full list of the recommendations made by participants, followed by a comments section. To add your voice to the conversation, email

Question 1

How can existing MAA functions, activities, and programs be strengthened in ways that will generate greater minority participation, both from students and faculty?

  1. SIGMAAs for minorities
  2. list of visiting speakers/lectures/mentors
  3. mentor pairing program
  4. many students don’t know that Ph.D. programs will pay them
  5. have more social events at meetings
  6. at community colleges, there are more minorities; get MAA more involved with these places
  7. Infinite Possibilities and SACNAS – strengthen our ties to them (give them a free booth at the meetings)
  8. resources for non-minority / majority so we can know about resources for minorities and help connect our students with communities

Question 2

How can the MAA broaden the scope of existing programs to make them more useful to members interested in the problem of underrepresentation among minorities in mathematics?

  1. get information from successful programs and pass it on
  2. bring MAA expertise onto implementation of the Common Core State Standards
  3. Project NExT to provide a model for supporting faculty of color at the undergraduate level

Question 3

What can be done to make the MAA membership aware of the professional status of minorities in mathematics?

  1. keep a record of tenure and retention rates
  2. have more women / minorities give talks at the national meetings
  3. highlight successes where interventions have helped
  4. mentoring is important and we need to raise awareness of it
  5. form a mentor network within the MAA (similar to the eharmony model)
  6. help people see pathways to replicate programs
  7. MAA needs to publicize more what has been successful
  8. colloquia should begin to highlight issues in education
  9. more white people need to talk to other white people about minority issues
  10. we need money and resources to invite minority speakers
  11. bridge program from high school to college
  12. partner with other STEM fields

Question 4

What is the appropriate role for the MAA to play in educational collaborative endeavors for minorities?

  1. broadening participation in math club officers; don’t just take the first four white males who walk into your office
  2. In the classroom, we have the opportunity to change the way students think about math. We should not underestimate our power and influence of encouraging individual students.
  3. Write encouraging letters to our students parents.

Question 5

How can the MAA make best use of its relationships with other professional associations and individuals and organizations in the government and private sector to foster collaborative projects to increase minority participation in mathematics?

  1. MAA focuses on REUs now.
  2. Go into the workplace to spread the word that math is important. People don’t understand what math is.

Question 6

What kinds of intervention programs can the MAA undertake in the future to assert and secure a leadership role in the advancement of minorities in mathematics?

  1. encourage self nomination for committee work and editing book series
  2. When gathering nominations for committees, in addition to asking about interests and strengths, explicitly ask what the person brings to the table along the diversity axis (with broad definition of diversity).
  3. restructure dues so that student memberships are free with institutional memberships

Question 7

How can the MAA serve as a resource for those interested in learning about successful intervention programs for minority students?

  1. resources for faculty on issues faced by our non-traditional or minority students
  2. have a place (e-place) where people can share stories and get support
  3. get MAA organizations to write regularly about resources / organizations
  4. have a poster that departments could post on their wall/hallway. We could build our poster wall with EDGE, SACNAS, etc.
  5. start a math circle aimed at middle school

Question 8

How can the MAA work with individuals in the government and the private sector to improve the mathematics skills of U.S. citizens and help provide skilled workers for the marketplace?

  1. require four math courses for K-8 credentials
  2. grants for development for in-service for teachers
  3. MET II document spells out preparation for teachers – we should pay attention to it
  4. consider using Singapore elementary textbooks
  5. maintain momentum – the U.S. government is less involved in supporting precollege programs, so look for local money


I like recommendation 6, more MAA meetings at schools with large minority populations, great for everybody.

— Frank Morgan, Williams College

It was great to see Bill's summary of where we are on the MAA Task Force Recommendations, and it makes the point that many of the recommendations have been taken seriously and that some progress has resulted. A couple of notes:

On the MAA's including at least one minority member on executive-level search committees: For at least the most recent searches for Executive Director and Secretary, this has been done.

On seeking candidates for the top offices: This is one area where the law of unintended consequences may have taken hold, since the MAA's efforts to encourage the nomination of minorities may have backfired a bit: I know for a fact that concern about the very low election rate has discouraged potential underrepresented minority candidates to the extent that some would not accept a nomination.

In the list of Gung and Hu award recipients, Bill omitted the most recent recipient: Bill.

—Robert E. Megginson, University of Michigan

It looks like most of the programs and support available to faculty occur only for faculty at the early stages of their career. However, studies show that women and minorities are vulnerable to lack of mentoring at every stage of their career. Research also shows that women and minorities often take "non-linear" career paths towards math and science. So I think it makes sense to have support, education, and mentoring available for women and minorities at all stages of one's career.

Programs like PREP are great because they are open to everyone, so they bring together faculty at all stages of their career and from different kinds of institutions. These programs are quite short, but if they were longer, I think these could be great places to perhaps incorporate a mentoring component for women and minorities. Continued education is important because I think that there's nothing like learning and doing math that gets mathematicians eager to get more involved in the mathematical community.

—Shirley Yap, California State University, East Bay

Question 1 asks 'How can existing MAA functions, activities, and programs be strengthened in ways that will generate greater minority participation, both from students and faculty?' We could be more visible in social media, especially among high school and college students. The MAA Mathfest Facebook page is a good start, but only really gets traffic from those already in the community. We need creative ways to reach high school and college students that are not connected. We could also develop a novel phone app that somehow gets people addicted, while learning and applying mathematical techniques! This might also help to address Question 8: 'How can the MAA work with individuals in the government and the private sector to improve the mathematics skills of U. S. citizens and help provide skilled workers for the marketplace?'

—Talithia Williams, Harvey Mudd College

I read with interest the article in MAA FOCUS on the Town Hall Meeting on Minority Participation, and the Jan. 15 meeting.

Who would have imagined that when Prof. Don King and I applied for a seed grant from the SUMMA program in 1992 that 22 years later we would see that the network that that grant made possible would have resulted in many hundreds of Boston inner-city kids succeeding in calculus, in college, and in mathematics-based professions.?

We were able to visit outreach programs and then network so that Boston schools would offer advanced mathematics, including AP calculus, on a consistent basis. Top-notch Boston high school teachers became involved; a six-week summer course was established (funded by Boston public schools as we as numerous private grants) and over 100 undergrads have served as mentors to the high school youngsters). Grants from NSF and the Nellie Mae Foundation allowed connections to be continued in  the schools, linking highly successful teachers with newer Boston teachers, with striking results. The school system itself changed and the schools began to be mathematics dynamos for the students.

This kind of change has undoubtedly occurred in many US cities. Still, it is only a start, to be built on.

Thank you for asking for suggestions.

Here are a few:

    1. Institutionalize an outreach dimension in each college mathematics department.

As our universities have progressed, they have become centers of research. That is positive, but the outreach activities must grow and deepen rather than diminish. An Outreach officer or coordinator with defined responsibilities ought to be established in each university and communiity college. MAA can help in this.

    2. Set up a series of seed grants (similar to SUMMA) to assist with (1) above.

Congratulations on moving toward a Second Level of Opportunity, 25 years later.

—Bob Case, Northeastern University

News Date: 
Friday, June 28, 2013