May 01, 2022

Math Monday: Highlighting AAPI Mathematicians in the Classroom

This Math Monday, we’re celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with profiles of three amazing AAPI mathematicians that you can bring into your classroom.


Find these profiles - and 30 more! - in the Math in Action slide deck!


Diana Ma

Diana Ma is a statistician who has built a career out of her two passions: basketball and math. As a Data Scientist for the Lakers, she works in basketball operations and does analysis involving player evaluation, roster construction, and in-game strategy.

Watch Diana Ma’s #LightASpark video: For the Love of Data and Basketball

Discussion Questions:

  • What type of data can Ma use to analyze a basketball game?
  • Ma brought math to her passion for basketball. What hobbies or interests are important to you? How could you see them connecting to math?
  • Ma says “every field, every industry right now needs statisticians”. Why do you think that’s the case?


Shakuntala Devi

Known as “The Human Computer”, Shakuntala Devi was a famous mathematician who holds the Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Human Computation.” In addition to her computational prowess, Devi was also an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate, novelist, and political hopeful. Her life story was adapted into the biopic Shakuntala Devi in 2020. 

Read 5 Things to Know About Shakuntala Devi or watch the trailer for the film Shakuntala Devi

Discussion Questions:

  • What mathematical skills did Devi excel at?
  • Devi once said “Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It's about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • How did Devi use her platform after becoming famous?
  • In school, students are often rewarded for being able to solve math problems quickly. What are the advantages and disadvantages of focusing on speed?


Kamuela Yong

Dr. Kamuela Yong is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu. He is the first Native Hawaiian to earn a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and is the co-founder of the organization Indigenous Mathematicians.

Watch a short video about Kamuela Yong’s classroom or read his personal essay In Over Your Head.

Discussion Questions:

  • Dr. Yong describes feeling overwhelmed as a graduate student in “In Over Your Head”. What realization changed the way he thought about his math classes?
  • One of Dr. Yong’s college students, Victoria Penalver describes his class by saying “[math is] not just some big abstract waste of time, but it’s actually able to show us and explain to us some of the things we see happening in real-time”. Describe a time you discovered an interesting connection between math and real life. 
  • Dr. Yong has talked about the importance of representation, community, and cultural knowledge in math. What makes you feel seen (recognized, appreciated, understood) in school?


Want More?

Feature More AAPI Mathematicians:

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About the Author

Kathryn Dawson

Kathryn (she/her) is excited to join the NGPF team after 9 years of experience in education as a mentor, tutor, and special education teacher. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in policy analysis and management and has a master's degree in education from Brooklyn College. Kathryn is looking forward to bringing her passion for accessibility and educational justice into curriculum design at NGPF. During her free time, Kathryn loves embarking on cooking projects, walking around her Seattle neighborhood with her partner and dog, or lounging in a hammock with a book.

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