May's Mathematics STEM Star: Ivana Lee


It’s the first week of May, and you know what that means, Sci Chic fans: it’s almost time for your Mathematics science fashion boxes to start showing up in your mailboxes! The first boxes should be arriving early next week.

But that’s not the only exciting news we have for you today. Another month means...you guessed it! It’s time for the next installment in our STEM Star interview series!

It’s only appropriate that our star this month is a mathematics extraordinaire. Boasting a B.S. in Mathematics, an M.A. in Education, and one killer fashion sense, this month’s STEM Star is ready to tell us all about and the beauty she sees in the mathematical world. She’s smart, she’s stylin’, and she’s on a mission to show the world just how amazing math really is. A warm welcome, please, for this month’s STEM Star: Ivana Lee!

Currently the Senior Mathematics Assessment Specialist at The College Board, Ivana was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about her passions, her job, and her thoughts on everything mathematical.

1. What do you do in the area of mathematics?
For the past two years, I have worked as a Mathematics Editor for a national non-profit education organization. I reviewed, wrote, and edited the content for a comprehensive mathematics curriculum for grades 6-12. The program includes textbooks, eBooks, digital assessments, and other instructional resources that teachers and students use in the classroom. Recently, I have moved to a different division within my organization as a Senior Mathematics Assessment Specialist. In my current role, I help develop the mathematics sections of a nationwide assessment that helps prepare high school students for a successful transition to higher education.

2. What sparked your interest in math?
In high school, I actually thought math was difficult, irrelevant, and boring. I ended up failing math class one year. Looking back, I now realize that my failure resulted in a challenge that I was determined to overcome. In working really hard to get good grades, I started to better understand how math works, which in turn, led me to see how beautiful, diverse, and interesting it can be! I now hold a BS in Mathematics and an MA in Education from Villanova University. I went into these two fields because I have experienced how much my mathematics education has shaped who I am, and I want other students especially those who may be struggling to have the same opportunity.

3. What do you think is the most artistic piece of mathematics?
I think it's so beautiful how math is in everything around us. People often think that math is never used in the real world, but that could not be farther from the truth! Mathematical ideas exist because they were created to describe the world around us. Two very artistic and beautiful mathematical concepts that come to mind are the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence. These can often be observed together in nature, such as in sunflowers, pine cones, seashells, plants, and even pineapples. Math isn't just about numbers you'd be surprised how much math you actually come across in everyday life!

4.What is your typical day like?
Lots of writing, reviewing, editing, and calculating (I still have my trusty TI-84 Calculator at my desk!). It's fun to think of real-world contexts while writing math problems. Not only does it make work interesting for me, but it also (hopefully!) makes the content interesting, relevant, and easier to understand for students. While I'm editing materials, I try to think about what would help the 15-year-old version of myself who is struggling with math: How can I phrase this math problem so that it doesn't confuse students? Is there something in this sentence that would have thrown me off? How can I explain the answer to this problem so that students understand how to get the right answer? And more importantly, how can I write this explanation so that students gain a conceptual understanding of the mathematics behind it? One of the many things I love so much about my job is that there's room for creativity. People often view mathematics as very black-and-white because there's always one correct answer. My job allows me to think creatively, come up with interesting ideas, and write within the context of mathematics.

5. What advice would you have for kids who love math?
My advice for kids who love math is to fully embrace it! You love math and that is something to be extremely proud of! Feed your curiosity, challenge yourself, and never stop seeking ways to learn more.

My advice for kids who don't love math is to not let your challenges with math lead you to believe you aren't good at it. Yes, math can be difficult at times, but if you accept that as if it were a fact, you are not giving yourself a chance to overcome your challenges. Your teachers are always there to help you! Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Challenges can be a great thing because they lead to hard work. Hard work can lead to passion...and passion always leads to success!

Ivana is in the midst of cataloging examples of math she finds in her everyday life, and you can find her work in progress online at www.mathematicalmodels.org.

You can also catch her on social media at:

Instagram: @mathematicalmodels

Twitter: @mathymodels

If you have any questions, or would simply like to reach out, email Ivana at mathematicsmodels16@gmail.com.

Find Ivana in our May Mathematics Sci Chic Kids and Sci Chic Monthly subscription boxes!

All views expressed herein are personal and not those of The College Board.

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