Making Mathematics Work for Minorities
On May 3,1990, Beverly Anderson greeted about 500 people in the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. Composed primarily of Blacks, Hispanics, and Indian Americans—groups which have traditionally been underrepresented in mathematics—they had convened to examine ways to improve minority achievement in mathematics. The meeting had an air of hope, progress, and celebration.
It was a big day for Beverly. The convocation capped a year-long, nationwide series of workshops she had organized. As Director of Minority Programs at the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Research Council, she is currently developing a national alliance of nearly fifty organizations to coordinate and support programs to help minorities excel in mathematics.
Throughout her career, Beverly has worked on increasing minority participation in mathematics with great devotion and success. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics, and a PhD in mathematics education from the Catholic University of America, Beverly taught for many years at the University of the District of Columbia, where the student body is predominantly Black and Hispanic. She took a leave of absence from the University to take her NRC position.
Of the many projects she has initiated and run, Beverly says one of the most rewarding was a summer program in mathematics and computer science for 8th- and 9th-graders. “We decided not to give them arithmetic and the usual mathematical topics these kids get all their lives,” she says. “And it was then that I came to see it didn’t much matter what you taught these kids, but it’s how well you taught them. These kids could learn anything… We had kids from public and private schools, we had Black kids and White kids… Although the goal was to get more minorities, it was very important for these kids to work side by side.”
Beverly grew up in New Orleans during the time of segregated schools, and she attended a public college-preparatory high school for Blacks. Although her parents did not have much education themselves, they understood the value of education: eight of their ten children attended college, four of them have graduate degrees, and six of them are in educational careers. As a student, Beverly always liked and excelled in mathematics.
A woman of deep beliefs and high ideals, Beverly strives to bring people together to work on common goals. “If we could learn to work together, in a respectful, honest manner, I believe we could solve this problem of the underachievement of minorities in mathematics,” she says. “I feel my biggest challenge is to get people to understand and to really work together.”
This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.