UI math professor uses lessons from 'Hidden Figures' to teach students

Dr. Farthing starts 'Hidden Figures' inspired math class for freshman students

It's not your typical math class. There are no math problems on the board just a classroom full of young women discussing a career in science, technology, engineering, and math.

"I thought that it would be a good way to kind've like talk about the math but also in this larger concept," says University of Iowa and math professor Dr. Cynthia Farthing Ph.D.

Professor Farthing was inspired to start the class after reading 'Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race' by Margot Lee Shetterly in January. Throughout the semester Professor Farthing invite speakers to discuss various issues women face in STEM-based career fields.

"It's mostly a discussion about what they think about the reading and what's going on in the world in general," explains Farthing.

All of the students are required to read the book.

"When we read Hidden Figures like reading how the African Americans like women had to handle like going through like doing math and everything like that making it further in their lives. I felt a connection with them," says Freshman Pre-med student Jada Marshall.

"I learned that there's a lot more gender schema with careers then I thought there was and I learned that the people in Hidden Figures did so much more than really anybody knew about," says freshman math student Mariah Griffin.

Professor Farthing hopes students walk away with a new idea of what women in science.

"Just remember that even though there might be challenges that it's still possible to do great things and have a great career."

The class is mostly made up of women, but Professor Farthing hopes young men will sign up for the class next semester.

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