Left to right: William McWorter Jr, PhD (OSU ’63); Thyrsa Frazier Svager, PhD (OSU’65); Carolyn Mahoney, PhD (OSU’83).
Welcome to the Black Math Story Blog!
Black Math Story provides all the information about Ohio State’s Hidden Figures Revealed project while our main website is under construction. Feel free to independently browse via our navigation bar, including What’s Happening? and Our Team.
Otherwise, read on to find out what the Hidden Figures Revealed project accomplished during the month of April.
⟫ FEATURED MATHEMATICIAN: Dr. Arnold Ephraim Ross
This month, we share a teaser view of our communication team’s mathematician profile of Dr. Arnold Ross (research lead, Elizabeth Arend). Dr. Ross worked with many of our project’s hidden figures, acting as educator, mentor, ally, and friend during his time as head of The Ohio State University’s Math Department.
Setting the scene: Dr. Arnold Ross strutted into a classroom full of eager high school students. It’s the summer of 1965, and the Ross Mathematics Program for gifted students was underway. Wearing a plain white dress shirt and a mischievous grin, Dr. Ross took his position at the front of the classroom, jumping right into a lecture about number theory. One of the students, hidden figure Rada Higgins, watched Dr. Ross pacing “back and forth, from left to right, then from right to left, and again from left to right” while he lectured. But even as he bounced from wall-to-wall, topic-to-topic, Dr. Ross flawlessly held the attention of his audience. Throughout the lecture, Dr. Ross, the “Pied Piper of Mathematics,” hammered his motto into students: “think deeply of simple things.”
Legacy: Dr. Arnold Ross received many honors for his work in mathematics and math education. He earned the OSU Distinguished Teaching Award (1974), the Distinguished Service Award (1981), the Mathematics Association of America Award for Distinguished Service (1986), and the AMS Citation for Public Service (1998). But the greatest reward was the connection Dr. Ross cultivated with coworkers and students.
➤ Hidden figure Carolyn Mahoney thanked Dr. Ross first and foremost in her PhD dissertation, saying he “made it possible for [her] to come to The Ohio State University.”
➤ Hidden figure Howard Richard wrote in his PhD dissertation, “you [Dr. Ross] provided me with the opportunity and support to gain my advanced degrees. Your sense of concern for the persons entrusted to your care is only one of your many assets. I shall try to follow your example in whatever role life demands of me.”
➤ And hidden figure Rada Higgins — the student sitting in that energetic classroom during the 1965 Ross Mathematics Program — said “the opportunity to study under Dr. Ross and to participate in his summer training program was probably the most singular privilege I have known in my academic life … Through him, I received an NSF Fellowship to follow the graduate program in mathematics at Ohio State University, from where I eventually acquired a doctorate …. Certainly, Dr. Ross shaped my destiny.”
To read more about Dr. Arnold Ross click here (interview).
Stay tuned for our hidden figure’s (and Dr. Ross’s) profiles!
Math Outreach’s Monica Delgado beside some flashcards from the Hidden Figures Workshops
⟫ EVENT: Hidden Figures Math Workshops
Our Math Outreach lead, Monica Delgado, teamed up with the folks at the Community Extension Center (CEC) for the Department of African and African American Studies to host four Hidden Figures Workshops thought the month of April. Monica and her team used laminated cards, balls of string, and plastic pushpins to teach middle schoolers the math used by our hidden figures.
The workshop kicked off on April 5, with Monica teaching Dr. McWorter’s story through a series of math crafts. The following week, she brought laminated squares for a math game that illustrated Dr. Svager’s work. And on April 19, she featured Dr. Hogan’s work through a series of math puzzles—one of which used the string and pushpins! The middle school students thoroughly enjoyed the intersection of Black history, math fun and after-school snacks.
Every month, our blog likes to give a shout-out to some of our project’s MVPs. This month, we feature the team who runs our workshops, events and website: Project Outreach. We asked Project Outreach’s Magdalene Adotey some questions about her role on the team, what she’s been working on, and more.
➢ What’s your role on the Hidden Figures Revealed team? What have you worked on so far relating to Ohio State’s Black hidden figures?
My role on the team is project outreach, I work alongside Dr. Edmonds and Toni Chinchar. My role consists of brainstorming ideas for our exhibition and finding ways to interact with the community through events like workshops and events and assisting with the website. I have also had the opportunity to communicate with local organizations that interact with schools where I have spoken to middle school and high school students about our project.
➢ What originally drew you to the Hidden Figures Revealed project?
What initially drew me to this project was the intersection between social justice, art, and STEM. In high school, I was under the impression that only “exceptional black people” were successful. I was able to see the background of these Hidden Figures and uncover a layer to success that people sometimes ignore. Revealing these hidden figures and showcasing their success and struggles allowed me to view black success in a different light. I enjoyed how creative this project can be and how open the team is to new ideas. I knew being a part of this project would allow me to see all the special talents that are constantly ignored because of the color of their skin, knowing that these hidden figures had big impacts in the world gave me figures to look up to, showing me that I am not alone in this journey.
➢ What do you hope people take away from this project?
Something that I really appreciate about this project is that it is meant for many different audiences and each person can take away something different. To teachers and educators ― I hope that through this project you can see how to implement a humanistic view of mathematics, allowing students the reasoning behind the concepts they are learning about. Students will be inspired. A young black woman, I know that if this aspect of education was implemented in the STEM field, I would gain more appreciation for the subject. I would be able to see people that look like me impacting the people around them. To students ― I hope through this project you gain a better understanding and love for mathematics. Through seeing all these successful black mathematicians, I hope you can see that no matter what background you come from you can achieve anything. I hope this project has allowed you to see the amazing black mathematicians that have come from Ohio State. Lastly, no matter the circumstances, I hope you understand the importance of showcasing these mathematicians as they inspire you to do great things.
➢ What’s a piece of content you’d recommend?
Afro-beats is a genre of music. I love listening to afro beats while I walk to class, go to the gym, or casually study. There are a plethora of songs that relay different feelings and emotions. My favorite artists are Fireboy DML, Burna Boy, and Davido. Check it out!
➢ What’s a pet peeve of yours?
Slow internet, especially when I am trying to relax and take a break.
➢ Which team member would you like to shout out?
I would like to shout out Toni Chinchar, who I have worked very closely with on this project. She is not only extremely smart and talented, but she also is always willing to help. I once had an assignment, and was unsure how to use the platform we were working on. Toni spent time teaching me how to use it after hours and helped tremendously. She has been a great support and the team would not be complete without her.
We want to shine a spotlight on the community partners who make our project possible. Read the bios below to learn more about our project’s supporters: the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center and the National Math Alliance.
➤ NATIONAL AFRO-AMERICAN MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER (NAAMCC)
Established in 1988 in Wilberforce, Ohio, the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) shares the history, art, and culture of the African American experience and serves as a gathering place for the community. Located at 1350 Brush Row Rd. in Wilberforce, Ohio, the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center is open Wed.–Sat. 9 am–4 pm. For more information about programs and events, call 800.752.2603 ext. 0 or go online at ohiohistory.org/naamcc.
➤ NATIONAL MATH ALLIANCE
The Math Alliance is a national mentoring community of faculty (Mentors) and students (Scholars). Our goal is simple: we want to be sure that every underrepresented or underserved American student with the talent and the ambition has the opportunity to earn a doctoral degree in a quantitative science.
Nearly 1000 students are active participants in the Math Alliance community. Every summer, hundreds of students from across the country participate in mathematics and statistics Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) and similar programs.
- Click here to see the annotated list of summer research programs that has been complied by William Y. Velez (external site).
- Summer research opportunities for undergraduates: https://mathalliance.org/math-alliance-partners/affiliates/ (external site).
The Math Alliance is glad to be partnering with the Ohio State Hidden Figures Revealed project. Our role is to provide some context from our experience for the project, and to assist in disseminating the outcomes and material from this project to the Math Alliance Community. We hope this will inspire other institutions to examine their own histories and to undertake self-assessments which can improve the culture and climate of mathematical science departments. For more information, visit https://mathalliance.org/.
As a project promoting math education, racial equity and social justice, we won’t hesitate to point you towards great resources for your students and personal enjoyment. Listed below are some websites our team members recommend you check out to learn about mathematicians from a variety of different backgrounds.
- Mathematically Gifted & Black
- Mathematicians of the African Diaspora (updated)
- Mathematics of the African Diaspora (original)
- Lathisms (Latinx and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences)
- Indigenous Mathematicians
Banner Photo Credits:
“William A. McWorter” provided by William McWorter III, https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/dispatch/name/william-mcworter-obituary?id=26295371.
“Thyrsa Frazier Svager” by Mr. Aleksandar Svager (public domain)
“2005-2012: Dr. Carolyn Mahoney” provided by Blue Tiger Commons at Lincoln University, https://bluetigercommons.lincolnu.edu/presidents/19/.