Math department hosts tenth Sonia Kovalevsky Math Day event

Sonia Kovalevsky event hosted for middle school and high school girls and non-binary students.

Toby Mohr

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 UW-Eau Claire math students and faculty host event promoting math for middle school

UW-Eau Claire math students and faculty host event promoting math for middle school

The mathematics department is hosting Sonia Kovalevsky Day on Saturday, March 12 to expose middle school and high school women and non-binary students to opportunities in the math and science fields. 

Sonia Kovalevsky was the first major female mathematician in Russia in the 1800s and first woman appointed to professorship in Northern Europe, according to the Association for Women in Mathematics.

Dr. Jessica Kraker, a mathematics professor and one of the faculty organizers of this year’s SK Day, said the event is all about getting students excited about math. 

The theme this year is cryptography, where students will work on decoding messages through patterns.

“There are problems of a pretty good variety that will keep students interested in math long term,” Kraker said. “We want students to try something new and find new interests.”

Cryptography workshops will be followed by a student Q&A panel where middle school and high school students will have a chance to ask STEM — science, technology, engineering and math —  students about their experiences in those fields.

“The panel will have students of different majors in STEM areas who can share different perspectives about math,” Kraker said. 

The cryptography workshops will be mostly led by students in the math program. Ariel Liu, a fourth-year math student and a student leader for the middle school workshop, said she is excited to work with the students. 

“Cryptography is my research interest,” she said. “So I’m excited to help out with the workshop.”

According to Liu, the middle school workshop will include the background on cryptography, how it is used in daily life and the math behind cryptographic patterns.

“We want to expose them to something they might learn in the future,” she said. “They might hear some of these terms in the future and remember them from the workshop.” 

In addition to focusing on the future, Kraker said the workshops can spark a lifelong interest in the math field. 

“There are so many distinct aspects in math, anyone can do something in math,” Kraker said. “It’s about finding that niche that interests you enough to explore deeply. Finding support along the way is key.”

SK Day also allows students to connect with each other over a common interest, according to Kraker.

“Students can build a network with each other and with the university of people they can talk to about math,” she said.

Liu said she hopes students are able to use the workshops to find what interests them. 

“We are looking to use interesting puzzles that get them to increase interest in math and see that it’s not that hard, it’s fun,” Liu said. 

SK Day will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 via Zoom. This year’s event marks the tenth year UW-Eau Claire has honored SK Day with events for middle school and high school students. 

Kraker said she hopes the virtual format will give students from outside the local area an opportunity to attend online. 

Information about SK Day at UW-Eau Claire can be found through the mathematics department website.

Information about Sonia Kovalevsky and her contributions to mathematics and science can be found through the Association of Women in Mathematics.  

Mohr can be reached at [email protected]