Math Motivators Is Making a Difference

If we as actuaries are blessed with the ability to understand and appreciate basic math skills, it is disheartening to see so many young students who don’t have that opportunity. The lack of math literacy or not understanding math is a big problem for the next generation, and while new initiatives are trying to address this issue, there are no easy solutions. Fortunately, there is an opportunity to make a huge difference to which we can lend our math expertise. Math Motivators is a program designed to educate high school students in basic math. The beauty of the program is it gets to the heart of high school students needs. It provides a person to not only give guidance on how to solve math problems, but to help them see the reason why they should care about math. And it’s easy for volunteers to help. Let me share some details about Math Motivators.

About Math Motivators

The program started in 2016 by Barry Jacobson, a retired insurance executive who taught high school math as his second career after being an actuary. He started in Hartford Connecticut. Fast forward to 2019 and now Math Motivators is facilitated by The Actuarial Foundation. The program pairs low-income high school students with those who have algebra math skills. This includes actuaries and college students pursuing math or math related degrees.

The way you can help is simple: essentially, volunteer 1 hour per week for most of a normal school year. You meet with 2 students each week, normally the same students. You not only teach students math, but you become a mentor to them. A good role model. The fact that you are willing to invest in them will encourage them to invest in themselves.

Math Motivators is currently in 7 cities across the United States. I’m excited because my home city of Des Moines is planning on starting a program this coming fall. We here at Coaching Actuaries see this as an opportunity to give back. The math is simple. We all make a relatively small contribution of our time and energy, but the benefits to our communities become exponential. By doing this together and focusing on a specific school, the students become motivated, and they see their friends become motivated, and soon our small efforts will impact an entire class of students.

We just completed a 3-part blog on 3 mathematicians who changed our lives. The first was Euler and he was tutored by Johann Bernoulli. Then Euler influenced Gauss who tutored Riemann who gave the math Einstein needed to do his thing. These are epic stories of inspiration. If these math giants benefited from the help of others, certainly everyone can gain from sharing a little part of what we know.

I’m sure we can all look back in the rear view mirror of our lives and remember someone who invested in us. If you’re like me, it may not have taken much, but the fact that they cared enough to show up was enough. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for all of us to make a difference in high school students understand, and maybe even appreciate, the beauty of math. If you want more information, you can watch this video below. If you are also interested in joining the Math Motivators team, you may contact Kelly Gschwend at to learn more.