Introducing Math Stories

Our stories are important for shaping our identities. What kind of person am I? Where do I belong? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose? These are profound questions that we often use stories to answer.

Our mission at Desmos is to help all students love math and love learning math. We acknowledge the complexities of that mission, and we understand the responsibility inherent in building tools that play a role in shaping every student’s math story.

As individuals, we all have our own math stories, and we have listened to the stories of others. Sometimes these stories come in the form of whispered confessions from people we’ve just met; other times, they come as asides in emailed feature requests.

Recently, we at Team Desmos began telling each other our math stories. In doing so, we wondered about how these stories might compare to the assumptions people might make about our backgrounds. Possibly people imagine Desmos to be a group of folks whose mathematical paths have been direct and uncomplicated, or that their own math stories are too unlike those of Desmos employees to be relatable. We began to consider the value of sharing some of our own stories publicly, and of eliciting and sharing compelling math stories from others—students, teachers, members of the public.

In this space, we will share these stories with you. The goals of this work include creating transparency about what it looks like to be successful in mathematics and about the ways in which society shapes the meaning of the phrase success in math. Our goals also include encouraging reflection among those with the power to shape the stories of others.

Most of all, we hope that sharing math stories will help more people see themselves belonging in this discipline. Success in this mission would improve our own experience of the discipline, and it would improve the discipline itself. As Rochelle Gutierrez has written, “As much as people need mathematics, mathematics needs people.”

Keep an eye on this space for an ongoing series of math stories, starting with a story from Allison Hamburger, a member of the Desmos engineering team.

In this work, we are greatly influenced by others to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. Surely there are many who influence our thinking, but of whom we are not aware. We are nonetheless grateful. Among those we can thank directly are Lauren Baucom and Christelle Rocha—Desmos Fellows and educators who have connected storytelling to mathematics, access, power, and culture in deeply meaningful ways. We also thank Wendy Menard, a Desmos Fellow and teacher who has shared the work she does with her students around their mathematical autobiographies—or mathographies—in pursuit of justice and equitable access.