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UW-Eau Claire to host 10th Annual Sonia Kovalevsky Math Day on March 12

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: The last in-person Sonia Kovalevsky Math Day event took place in February 2020, with attendees pictured above.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will celebrate the 10th Annual Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day on Saturday, March 12. The virtual event will be hosted via Zoom from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Created by the Association for Women in Mathematics, this dedicated day of mathematics celebration was established in honor of Sonia Kovalevsky, the first major female mathematician in Russia in the late 1800s. She became the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe, and one of the first women to work as an editor of a scientific journal. While it was originally meant to promote mathematics to girls and young women, the SK Day events in recent years at UW-Eau Claire have been open to all students. 

With a theme of “Breaking Codes and Encryption,” the day will include workshops and problem-solving activities as well as some friendly mathematics competitions. A Blugold student panel will highlight the experiences and opportunities available in mathematics at UW-Eau Claire.

Middle and high school students, teachers and sponsors may register until March 7. For more details about the day and registration information, visit the Sonia Kovalevsky Day website.

Shanise Walker headshot

Dr. Shanise Walker, assistant professor of mathematics at UW-Eau Claire

Dr. Shanise Walker, assistant professor of mathematics at UW-Eau Claire, has organized this event for several years, and while she misses the in-person format, she is looking forward to the exchange of ideas and passion for mathematics that will be shared with young students during this morning of online participation.

“Co-organizing Sonia Kovalevsky Day each year has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as faculty in the math department,” Walker says. “Each year this event gives students, parents and teachers an opportunity to learn new mathematics and to connect with university faculty, staff and students. I continue to be excited about the student creativity in solving mathematics, and I look forward to hosting the event in person again."

Dr. Carolyn Otto, professor of mathematics, co-organizes this event with Walker and is thrilled to see the growth in attendance and enthusiasm for math.

Carolyn Otto

Dr. Carolyn Otto, professor of mathematics at UW-Eau Claire

"The motivation behind creating SK Day was to provide a welcoming space where middle and high school girls could explore math and the other STEM fields,” Otto says. “We wanted participants to explore fun and exciting topics in math while being surrounded by a supportive environment of others with the same love of learning.

“Ten years ago, the SK event was a short day on campus with few participants, and it has grown to be a popular event for Blugold math students and the community, even during COVID.”

One of those Blugold students is Abbie Groppe, a senior mathematics education major from Hartford who enjoys taking part in SK Day, an event similar to one she attended while in middle school. She says that experience sparked her interest in math and helped her to find camaraderie among other students interested in STEM.

“This is my second year as a student organizer for SK Day, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity again,” Groppe says. “As a middle schooler, I attended a very similar event put on by UW-Madison. It was the first place I felt comfortable expressing just how much STEM subjects excited me. Math has continued to be one of my passions because of that event, and I'm honored to pass that on to a future generation of mathematicians. The past two years working with SK Day has helped me develop some of the most important skills I will take into my future as a secondary math educator.”

For first-time SK Day student volunteer Maria Cruciani, the experience has already made a strong impression.

"I have found Sonia Kovalevsky Day to be a highly impactful experience," says the junior applied mathematics and statistics major from Eau Claire. "The opportunity to work closely with faculty to plan and organize this event has helped me grow as a mathematician and future educator. It is rewarding to take part in empowering students to gain confidence and skills in mathematics. I am very proud to be a part of a university that offers this type of outreach programming."