She Does Math!

She Does Math!: Real-Life Problems from Women on the Job

MARLA PARKER Editor
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: 1
Pages: 260
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.4169/j.ctt5hh9z3
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  • Book Info
    She Does Math!
    Book Description:

    She Does Math! presents the career histories of 38 professional women and math problems written by them. Each history describes how much math the author took in high school and college; how she chose her field of study; and how she ended up in her current job. Each of the women present several problems typical of those she had to solve on the job using mathematics. Who should have this book? Your daughter or granddaughter, your sister, your former math teacher, your students — and young men, too. They want to know how the math they study is applied — and this book will show them.

    eISBN: 978-1-61444-105-2
    Subjects: Mathematics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Marla Parker
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Problems by Subject
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Environmental Psychology
    (pp. 1-3)
    Susan C. Knasko

    Math, how boring! I was good at it, but didn’t find it thrilling. That’s how I felt in junior high school, when my career goals were to be a spy or an astronaut. (Already, I had several pamphlets from the FBI and had started the neighborhood Star Trek Spy Club.) My dad encouraged me to take a lot of math, reminding me that math is what got people to the moon.

    In high school I studied geometry (I loved the logic), algebra, and trig-advanced algebra (I hadno ideawhat those sines and cosines were for). Yike—before I knew...

  6. Software Engineering; Computer Science
    (pp. 4-6)
    Mary E. Campione

    I grew up in a very traditional, military family. Girls became young ladies, married at an early age (before they were 20 years old), and had children. They did not learn mathematics or science, and certainly didn’t go to college. Every time we got into a discussion about college, my parents would ask, “Why waste four years in college, and all that money, if you’re just going to get married and have children?”

    When I was about seven years old, these restrictions made me decide that being a girl was basically a bad thing but that fortunately, I was really...

  7. Archaeology
    (pp. 7-13)
    Shelley J. Smith

    Ever since I was in junior high school, I have been interested in archaeology and the mysteries of the past. It’s fascinating to learn how archaeologists decipher the past from sparse clues—broken pottery, abandoned homes, trash middens—and how they employ many of the same strategies as detectives.

    In school, I was neutral towards math; I didn’t like it, but I didn’t strongly dislike it either . . . until high school, when I took geometry, trigonometry, and college algebra. I wasn’t good at these subjects, and the C’s and B’s I received in these classes pulled my grade...

  8. Mathematics and Computer Science
    (pp. 14-17)
    Maryam Shayegan Hastings

    I was born in Iran, and studied in the European-style school systems there, where mathematics is emphasized. My family immigrated to the United States while I was in seventh grade. Although I did not speak English, I was more advanced in mathematics than my classmates, so my teachers encouraged me to take the more challenging mathematics courses. In college, I majored in mathematics. After graduation, I worked for a year at Bell Laboratories as a computer programmer.

    At this point, I realized that I wanted a career in education, which required a graduate degree. So I entered graduate school at...

  9. Civil Engineering
    (pp. 18-22)
    Donna McConnaha Sheehy

    Becoming an engineer was not something I planned, it happened strictly by accident. I was born and raised in a small town in Montana, where young women were expected to become homemakers, secretaries, or teachers. None of those areas interested me—I wanted to be a great artist. I spent my high school years preparing for a career in the commercial art field, taking art, speech, journalism, and mechanical drawing classes. In fact, I was the first female student to take mechanical drawing, a major breakthrough in those days. Because I was concentrating on a liberal arts background, my last...

  10. Mathematics
    (pp. 23-25)
    Linda Valdés

    When I was growing up, women were not expected to choose a career in mathematics. Since I was always a rather hard-headed, stubborn individual, I rebelled against this notion and decided to do it anyway. And now, as a mathematician, I derive great satisfaction at the surprise in people’s faces when they find out what I do for a living.

    Mathematics is great. I can sit and think, deduce and reason, be creative all day long—and get paid for it. And what’s really interesting is that most of the work I do has no immediate practical value, because mathematicians...

  11. Electrical Engineering
    (pp. 26-29)
    Jill S. Baylor

    I grew up in a family of four children. My father had a PhD in engineering. He expected all of us to do well in school and go to college at one of the state schools in Virginia. I really liked math courses and took all I could get until I graduated from Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia. However, I really didn’t know what career I wanted, so although I took a lot of science (including chemistry), I had not yet taken physics when I entered the University of Virginia.

    Halfway through my first semester in a liberal arts...

  12. Physics; X-ray Astronomy Research
    (pp. 30-33)
    Lynn R. Cominsky

    After graduating in 1971 from Sweet Home Senior High School in suburban Buffalo, New York (where I took four years of math, including calculus), I attended Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts. Originally, I planned to become a psychology major; however, my first class quickly changed my mind! I had been a vegetarian since the age of 16, and most of the class dealt with dissecting cat’s brains to figure out how their vision worked. I decided I was too squeamish for such work (and for medicine) and changed my major to chemistry.

    So I spent the next three years as...

  13. Mathematics
    (pp. 34-41)
    Renate McLaughlin

    I was born in what was then called East Germany. My parents fled to West Germany while I was still in elementary school, and I received the standard schooling for college-bound students: beginning with a foreign language (English) in fifth grade, adding a second language (Latin) in seventh grade, and adding a third language (French) in tenth grade. After completing thirteen years of school, students could apply to a college. Schools offered no choices whatsoever, all subjects were mandatory. Once a foreign language was started, students had to continue with it through the thirteenth grade, although the class would not...

  14. Physics; Astronaut Crew Training Instructor
    (pp. 42-46)
    Rena Haldiman

    I was born in Houston, Texas, a city that began as a little cow town. My parents settled down to begin a family in the southwest part of town, when it was still surrounded by fields of grazing cattle, just before it exploded into a big space exploration center for the United States. During President Johnson’s time, some land south of Houston owned by Rice University was leased to establish the Johnson Space Center (JSC). It was the newest National Aeronautics and Space Administration site in the country, dedicated to fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s charter of landing a man...

  15. Business Data Processing
    (pp. 47-49)
    Elaine Anselm

    Mathematics was always a fun subject for me. The main reason I liked it so much was because there was always an answer for a given problem. But I was also interested in art, where there was never one right answer.

    In 1969, I graduated from an all-girls’ parochial high school in Rochester, New York, with a double major in math and art. When I entered college I had a very difficult time deciding between the two subjects. I enjoyed both very much, but the deciding factor was the opportunities for employment—I felt I could make a better living...

  16. Software Engineering; Real Estate Investment
    (pp. 50-51)
    Smadar Agmon

    At my high school in Israel, everyone had to choose a specialization in biosciences, languages, or mathematics. I chose math because it was my field of interest, as well as a good start for a possible future career. In most of my classes, there were two or three other girls and more than thirty boys. We studied trigonometry, algebra, geometry, and more.

    When I was eighteen, I entered the Army for the required two years of service. There I learned more English. I was selected for the officer’s course and soon became an officer. This meant I was put in...

  17. Quality Engineering
    (pp. 52-55)
    Christine Eckerle

    I’ve always loved reading mystery stories, and my job involves solving problems, just like they do in the stories. I look at all of the things that might be causing the problem, and design experiments to find out what the main causes are, so a solution can be found. Sometimes those solutions are “people processes,” or changes to the way something is manufactured. To help find the solutions, I use mathematics and logic tools such as cause-and-effect diagrams, histograms, averages, storyboarding, and many other techniques. I work with people and computers, doing a lot of research to find the answers....

  18. Health Science
    (pp. 56-57)
    Sally Irene Lipsey

    At Hunter College High School, I loved math and took almost all the courses that were offered, including trigonometry and solid geometry, but not calculus. I went on to Hunter College where I majored in math with an education minor. I became an assistant in the math department at the University of Wisconsin, where I also earned an MA in math.

    Newly married, I next went to the Columbia University School of Pure Science for a PhD. I completed all the courses for the degree, but acquired a family instead—three daughters in four years! While my daughters were young,...

  19. Nursing Education
    (pp. 58-60)
    Janean D. Bowen

    I am currently in my sixth year of teaching in the Practical Nursing Program at the Northeast Kansas Area Vocational Technical School. One of my courses is a basic math refresher to prepare students for pharmacology classes. The majority of my students are women who, at some time in their lives, were told they didn’t need to learn math. Many don’t understand why nurses need to know how to use fractions and proportions. When I began my nursing career, I didn’t know why, either.

    In high school, I had no clear career plan in mind. I took four years of...

  20. Electrical Engineering; Space Systems
    (pp. 61-62)
    Amy C. R. Gerson

    I still remember how my first grade teacher, Mrs. Perkins, let us watch the Apollo rocket launches on television. The powerful technology inspired me to be a good student, so I could be a part of the space program. I enjoyed school and got a lot of encouragement from my family. My mom is an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects), and she has also been an inspiration. I still enjoy visiting her lab and peering through the microscope.

    In high school I studied algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. As I progressed, I gradually decided that even though the language...

  21. Oil and Gas Accounting
    (pp. 63-64)
    Marilyn K. Halpin

    As a junior and senior high school student, I did well in all my classes, but math class was always the easiest. In junior high, my math teachers were two stern, former military men. They drilled us with pages and pages of problems that were like puzzles to me. Finally Elizabeth Mann, my trigonometry teacher and coincidentally my Student Council sponsor, led me toward a career in mathematics. To this day, trigonometry is my favorite course.

    With no detours, I became a mathematics major at the University of Texas in Austin. Between earning a BA (1969) and an MA (1971),...

  22. Business Administration Higher Education
    (pp. 65-67)
    Martha Leva

    Mathematics always made me feel successful. My grade school was very small, less than 250 students, with more girls than boys in all of my classes. All of my teachers were women, and girls were always the top performers in math.

    As time went on, I attended an all-girl high school and took all the math courses that were offered to college-bound students, including calculus during my senior year. All my math teachers were very serious and dedicated women. I specifically remember my geometry and algebra teachers, who made the material very easy to understand.

    Following high school, I attended...

  23. Aerospace Engineering
    (pp. 68-72)
    Caroline P. Nguyen

    When I came to the United States fifteen years ago, I knew very little English. In fact, the only complete sentence I could say was “my name is . . . .” Due to political reasons, I was forced to leave my country, Vietnam, before I completed junior high school. However, after enrolling in high school in America, I realized that it would take a miracle for me to earn a high school diploma. The difficulties were compounded by the fact that I didn’t know the language and I had to assimilate a completely new culture in a fast pace....

  24. Structural Engineering
    (pp. 73-75)
    Linda K. Lanham

    In high school I studied algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, but I was surprised to find myself needing these skills frequently when using drafting tools on computers. If you don’t know geometry and trigonometry, you cannot really draw with the computer drafting tools. In fact, I often use a piece of scratch paper to figure out how to draw what I need on the computer, which was also not what I expected.

    At my 9th grade science fair, I won a gift certificate from a drafting supply company. This started my interest in drafting, and resulted in several more scholarships. One...

  25. Computer Science
    (pp. 76-86)
    Marla Parker

    Every year I was in school, I studied math. Fortunately, my school, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, offered advanced-placement calculus to seniors. So, instead of learning calculus in a class of a hundred or more college freshmen, I was in a class of fewer than 30 high school seniors, with an enthusiastic teacher.

    After high school, I went to Rice University in Houston, Texas. Since I grew up in Houston and lived in Baton Rouge for only my last two years of high school, going to Rice was an odd mixture of leaving home for college and going back home...

  26. Mathematics
    (pp. 87-91)
    Eileen L. Poiani

    My Nutley High School yearbook caption says that I “would like to teach college math,” probably because I had taken five year-long mathematics courses, plus the usual college prep curriculum. But why did I choose—and remain with—math? No doubt for a variety of reasons: the influence of my father’s engineering background; my mother’s competence in basic consumer mathematics; the American commitment to mathematics and science in the aftermath of the Soviet Union launching the spacecraft, Sputnik; and the fact that I liked mathematics—and find it a continuing challenge.

    I fulfilled my career goal by entering Douglass College,...

  27. Dietetics—Foodservice Management and Nutrition
    (pp. 92-101)
    Nancy Powers Siler

    In high school, I was in advanced math, science, and English classes until my senior year, when I became tired of studying so much. I switched to an easier course load that included economics, regular English, and electives. This way, I could continue my social activities, and became a Senior Favorite upon graduation. I was even Salutatorian, with the second-highest grade point average in my high school graduating class.

    However, when I reached the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, and took general and organic chemistry, along with a few other difficult courses, I regretted not continuing with trigonometry and...

  28. Electrical Engineering
    (pp. 102-105)
    Fahmida N. Chowdhury

    I was born in Bangladesh, and went to all-girls schools where it never occured to anyone that girls werenotsupposed to be good at mathematics and science. In ninth grade, we had to choose a “track”—either science or humanities. Once you chose a track, you couldn’t switch back to the other track, because you would have missed too many courses and there was no way of making them up.

    The science track included advanced mathematics, physics, inorganic and organic chemistry, biology, calculus, statics, and dynamics. Both tracks taught algebra and geometry, but the science students took more of...

  29. Chemical Engineering, retired
    (pp. 106-107)
    Rosalie Dinkey

    In high school I took all the math classes that were offered: both beginning and advanced algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Although I planned to major in chemistry, I liked math so well that I switched to chemical engineering, because I thought I would use math more in engineering. In 1948, I received a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.

    For several years, I worked at General Electric, Sylvania, and Stanford Research Institute as an analytical and production chemist. I wanted to learn more math, so I went to San Jose State University and in 1968, earned an...

  30. Software Engineering
    (pp. 108-110)
    Susan J. LoVerso

    In high school I took the only introductory computer courses that were offered, because my older brother had taken them years earlier. He would bring home pictures that he had generated with the computer and allowed me to color them. So I decided that when I got to high school, I would take computer courses so I could create pictures on the computer, too. Although I wasn’t very interested in coloring pictures by the time I got to high school, I did take computer courses, and discovered that my brain seemed to work well in the logical world required by...

  31. Immunology and Microbiology
    (pp. 111-115)
    Eileen Thatcher

    I attended a three-year junior high school in a small town. Then I went to a very small rural high school for two years. There were only 200 students so class sizes were small. One math class had only six students. Most days were spent working at the blackboard, so we really learned to think on our feet! For as long as I was in school, I studied math—basic algebra, plane and solid geometry, trigonometry, matrix algebra, and analytic geometry.

    At UC, San Diego, I earned a BA in Biology. While there, I took three courses of calculus and...

  32. Mechanical Engineering
    (pp. 116-117)
    Julie A. Pollitt

    I have been interested in math for as long as I can remember, especially the challenge of solving a problem. In my junior year of high school, I won Math Student of the Year. My teachers were pushing me to choose a career as a math teacher, but I wanted to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. A college recruiter suggested aerospace engineering, and informed me that engineering requires plenty of math. So I enrolled in college with the intention of becoming an aerospace engineer, but when I spoke to several senior engineering students,...

  33. HMO Pharmacy Practice and Management
    (pp. 118-120)
    Helen Townsend-Beteet

    By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I was certain I would become a clinical psychologist. My mother was pursuing a masters in guidance and counseling, so there was a family influence. Fortunately, my high school classes included mathematics and the sciences.

    I began my studies in psychology at the University of Kansas. My classes were enjoyable but I became concerned that the field might be overcrowded and offer little real career growth. A minority affairs counselor suggested that I try a field called psychopharmacology. It involves studying drugs to see how they affect receptors in...

  34. Ophthalmology
    (pp. 121-125)
    Jane D. Kivlin

    I have always enjoyed mysteries. Figuring out “whodunit,” tracking the culprit down, and then proving it fascinates me. I approach mathematics problems in the same way. How can I take the information and get the answer I am looking for? This way of looking at mathematics makes even story problems interesting! And mathematics is so much more precise than the psychology of people and their temptations, I can get an exact answer, usually without reading 250 pages.

    Despite my liking for mystery novels, I am very practical in nature. The application of calculus to practical matters interests me. One problem...

  35. Electrical Engineering
    (pp. 126-131)
    Sharon G. Lum

    The turning point of my lifelong mathematical awareness was in the sixth grade, when math became fun and interesting. My career plan was laid out in the ninth grade when I decided to become a math teacher, at that time the only job option I knew for people who liked math. Since becoming a math teacher meant taking a lot of math classes and going to college, my high school courses consisted of four years of math, science, and English, two years of Spanish, and of course the required social studies and P.E. classes, plus some music classes. This prepared...

  36. Fish Pathology
    (pp. 132-134)
    Beth MacConnell

    I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and moved West when I graduated from high school. Science, biology in particular, was interesting so I also took the required math courses algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. A college degree in biology required even more math.

    Although it was never easy for me, I am very glad I didn’t give up on math. Little did I know that a career in biology would require putting my math skills to use on a regular basis.

    After graduating from Colorado State University with a BS degree in Wildlife Biology, I worked for...

  37. Computer Science and Computer Graphics
    (pp. 135-138)
    Barbara Swetman

    As early as I can remember, I enjoyed math in school. It may be difficult for some to believe, but I actually thought that those long homework assignments were fun—though definitely not a breeze!

    My high school courses consisted of algebra, geometry, trigonometry and pre-calculus. In 1983, I graduated from St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York with a BS in Mathematics. A common question people asked as I went through college was, “So what are you planning to do with your math degree—teach?” Well, I knew that teaching was not for me, so I sought a secondary...

  38. Mathematics and Computing
    (pp. 139-141)
    Polly Moore

    I have always enjoyed math, and took my first calculus course as a senior in high school. When I went to college, I was still trying to decide whether to major in math or chemistry, so I took a number of courses in both areas. I got a lot of encouragement from my math professors, and organic chemistry seemed particularly abstruse. In the end the decision was easy: math!

    At the time, I wanted to teach math, so I earned a masters degree and a PhD. Unfortunately, when I graduated there were very few university positions for mathematicians, and even...

  39. Electrical Engineering
    (pp. 142-145)
    Lynn Stiglich

    When I was in high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. Science—especially astronomy, nature, the human body, and archeology—was always fascinating to me, so I knew I wanted to go into a technical field. During all four years in high school, I studied math, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, advanced math, and introductory calculus.

    Once in college, I decided to go to medical school and become a doctor, so I started the pre-med program while also working parttime. The competition to get into med school was fierce, and I soon realized my grades...

  40. Astronomy
    (pp. 146-151)
    Nancy G. Roman

    As long as I can remember, I wanted to be an astronomer. In fifth grade, I started an astronomy club among my friends, and proceeded to read every astronomy book I could find in our local library. In high school, I happily took both math courses—geometry and algebra. In college, I majored in astronomy, but also took five years each of math and physics. The only way I managed to get through history and German in my freshman year was because I did not need to spend much time studying math and astronomy. I received a BA in Astronomy...

  41. Author
    (pp. 152-155)
    Claudia Zaslavsky

    By the time I was four years old I was using mathematics in a practical way, counting out and selling three or four candies for a penny in my dad’s store. A few years later I operated the cash register in our clothing store. My parents’ trust in me and praise from our customers, as well as my own interest, encouraged me to see math as my field. Everyone expected me to major in mathematics, and I did.

    I have worked in many fields, mostly related to mathematics. In college I majored in statistics, and then earned a master’s degree...

  42. Mathematics
    (pp. 156-160)
    Jean E. Taylor

    I didn’t know I liked math until I took the Kuder Personal Preference Test and a course in algebra. A typical question in the Kuder Test is: would you rather grow a flower, sell a flower, or develop a new breed of flower? The test told me that my interest in computation was at the 96th percentile. Discovery of my interest in math (according to the test) surprised me because I had thought that math was boring and also because no one else in my family was interested in math or science. Then I discovered algebra. It gave me a...

  43. Reflections on WAM
    (pp. 161-164)
    Eileen L. Poiani

    In 1975, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) asked me to develop a lectureship program that would encourage young women to study mathematics. The problem, a disproportionately small number of women entering the mathematical sciences and other mathematics-dependent careers, had been identified in the early 1970’s. A contributing factor was the fact that American young women tend to avoid taking high school mathematics after tenth grade, but young men normally study four years of high school mathematics.

    At the time I was asked to direct the program, I was also coordinating the Speakers Bureau of the Saint Peter’s College Mathematics...

  44. Solutions
    (pp. 175-253)