Math Sense

By Joseph Nichols • May 11, 2018 • 0 Comments

This morning, as the thunderstorm approached, I was taking down hammocks from the metal swing set and reminded myself (yet again) that I do not have much common sense. Thank goodness I have math sense. Or do I?

So then I started thinking about why I excelled at math. I had parents who placed a high value on education and encouraged me in areas where I was strong. I lived in a community that also placed a high value on education and invested in schools. I went to schools with teachers who, because of the community’s investments, had the resources to help students at all levels.

So yes, I have math sense, but I feel it is due more to environment than innate ability. Due to my developed math sense, I was able to join a profession that provided a comfortable living, challenging work and a peer network of fellow math-centric nerds who have become my friends. As a result of my profession’s giving so much to me, I have always felt the need to give back.

My volunteer work started as an exam writer for what used to be Exam EA-2B. That led to serving as Vice Chair of the EA-2B committee, followed by an appointment to the JBEA Advisory Committee. Other appointments have included ACOPA and ASPPA President, work with the International Actuarial Association and now, Secretary of ARA. Each appointment has provided me with the opportunity to meet incredible actuaries and help promote the actuarial profession. However, nothing compares to the satisfaction I get from my work with The Actuarial Foundation (TAF).

I am currently in my fifth year on the TAF Board and am fortunate enough to serve as the 2018 Board Chair. The mission of TAF is to enhance math education and financial literacy through the talents and resources of actuaries. We promote our mission with programs such as scholarships, math and financial curriculum, math contests and tutoring programs. A complete overview of our programs can be found at www.actuarialfoundation.org. I would like to highlight our two newest programs – Math Motivators and Modeling the Future.

The mission of the Math Motivators program is to help close the achievement gap by establishing a volunteer-driven math tutoring program that pairs low-income high school students with professional actuaries and college students majoring in actuarial science, mathematics or math education. The program started in Hartford, is now in Chicago and expands to Minneapolis in 2018. The results are incredible – the high school students are showing immediate improvement, and the tutors not only help create “math sense,” but get to give back and work on their communication skills.

The Modeling the Future Challenge (MTF) is a new academic competition being developed with support from the Institute of Competition Sciences – a leader in challenge-based learning programs. The premise of the MTF is simple. High school students are challenged to develop and present their own mathematical models of how a new technology or industry might change the future. Our inaugural competition was a great success, with finalist presentations in New York in February.

TAF programs depend on the support from individual actuaries, employers of actuaries and the five U.S.-based actuarial organizations. We are very grateful for those who have supported TAF over the past 24 years. As we prepare for our 25th anniversary, plans are under way to step up our contributions to help support our ever-expanding programs. Look for more information on the campaign soon, but as a sneak peek, we want to increase the percentage of actuaries who contribute on an annual basis. ACOPA actuaries are a special breed. Our sense of community shows in all aspects of our organization. I would like ACOPA actuaries to stand out well above the other organizations.

I have a challenge to my ACOPA peers. If you have never donated to TAF, please consider 2018 as your initial year. It would be incredible if, as TAF starts our 25th year, ACOPA participation exceeds that of all other actuarial organizations. If you currently support TAF, thank you! Please consider increasing your participation for the 25th anniversary campaign. Donations can be made online here. Finally, for business owners and managers, please contact TAF or me to discuss a matching program within your company to encourage employee participation.

I hear another storm approaching – time to clean out the gutters. Cheers!

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