Name: Nancy Marchant
Location: Raleigh, NC
Occupation: Subject Matter Expert, Math/Statistics
Statistician and mathematician Nancy Marchant designs ways for students to understand the intricacies of subjects that most people find challenging. As an educational technology maven, Nancy creates step-by-step textbook problem tutorials that can be found online so that students can hone their skills in areas that they are struggling with.
“Originally, I wrote code for math and stats textbooks so that students could do their homework online and get graded instantly. This involved solving the original problem given in the textbook and then adding code so that numbers could be changed around, but the problem-solving process would remain the same and not be harder if a different set of numbers were used in that same question.”
Now this “Graph Queen” codes and creates new ways for students to relate to math and statistics through educational technology, which is a pleasant off-shoot of her former job as a high-school math teacher.
“After a few months of being a math coder, I wished I had been able to use something similar while I was teaching. Grading takes a lot of time, and anything I can do to help free up time for teachers so they can do research, create new materials, or spend extra time with their students is worth me not being in the classroom. I miss being in the classroom, but enjoy being able to still be in the field of education,” Nancy explains.
When she was growing up, Nancy always loved computer lab games like Number Munchers, and was fascinated by geometry and trigonometry. It was her high school band teacher who motivated her to explore teaching as a career choice, but she found that the part of education that she loved – explaining how to do something – was nearly overwhelmed by the other aspects of the job.
“The non-teaching aspects that come along with this profession took more effort than I anticipated. It wasn’t enough that I had lesson plans and a rough idea for specific units, I had to have organization practices set in place for each class period I had, and then for each student within that class. There was definitely an “Oh…” moment upon realizing that not everyone loves math and that teaching was more than standing in front of a classroom full of students spouting off how to do math,” Nancy recalls. “It was a lot of work to create engaging and meaningful lesson plans so that students would want to put in the effort.”
But following budget cuts in the public school system, Nancy found herself looking for a job, and it was then that she applied for a temp position as a “math coder” to create those step-by-step accompaniments to textbook questions. There she discovered how to combine tech and math in a novel way.
“For some questions this meant coding graphs, which I developed a deep love for. It became a challenge to mimic the exact appearance of a graph or geometric figure in a textbook – not just the functions that were used (that’s easy), but using the exact same colors, down to the specific RGB color code,” she explains. “This has morphed into taking a mathematical approach of breaking down images into geometric shapes; think back to books on how to draw anything from elementary schools – everything is comprised of circles, ovals, and maybe a couple of lines here and there. A strawberry frosted doughnut with sprinkles is nothing more than a beige circle with a white circle in the center, a filled in pink polar curve, and a bunch of multicolored points.”’
These days, Nancy is learning that her profession is more necessary than ever, as the world adapts with the migration of in-class academics to learning remotely.
“I very much enjoy working in educational technology where I can help take some of the more tedious tasks off instructors’ desks, like grading and extra tutorials, and I would like to continue finding new ways to do this, especially now that teaching and learning online are becoming increasingly necessary,” Nancy says.
So what does this donut making mathematician have to say for girls who might be struggling with the subject?
“Don’t be afraid of math! Math is more than just playing with numbers and solving for x, it’s about learning to apply logical steps to solve a problem. It may take some extra time and practice to understand, but so does reading a long book. Math is a beautiful language that builds on itself.”
For her work creating online learning opportunities, and for injecting creativity into math and statistics, we think Nancy Marchant is a very Cool Girl!