Iowa STEM Blog

Tuesday, May 5, 2022

Featuring Duhita Mahatmya, Ph.D., research scientist for the College of Education at the University of Iowa

Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month is recognized every April to increase understanding and appreciation for mathematics. It can truly be celebrated all year, as mathematics impacts our everyday lives and helps build the world around us. Mathematics is the language that allows us to explore science, engineering and technology. We interact with it every day to budget, cook, drive a car, use a computer or schedule our time.

Learning the foundations of mathematics develops problem solving, critical thinking, logic and creative skills. And while mathematics can challenge us, it also unlocks a world of possibilities we can explore. From computer programming to construction work, mathematics can prepare Iowa students for engaging, exciting careers.

Duhita Mahatmya, Ph.D., is a research scientist for the College of Education at the University of Iowa. While she always enjoyed mathematics growing up, she admits she wasn’t that good with numbers. It was her curiosity and drive to always keep learning that kept her interested.

As she was studying elementary education at Drake University, she found herself more drawn to the science and psychology side of learning. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English and later went on to receive her doctorate in philosophy from Iowa State University.

Duhita’s role at the University of Iowa provides a unique perspective on how mathematics and numbers can play a part in many different types of careers. For her, it is key for understanding how people are learning. She works with faculty across the College of Education to take research questions and identify what kind of data can be collected and analyzed to help find solutions.

From working on informal STEM learning in rural spaces to career interventions, she is passionate about using numbers and data and the links to behavioral or human phenomenon. Numbers and statistics can be seen as objective, but having the mathematics knowledge to understand why the numbers are doing what they are doing and knowing what to look for helps her do her job.

In school settings, students often learn about the scientific method, developing a hypothesis and collecting data, in a more controlled setting. With Duhita’s current responsibilities, she enjoys applying those skills in an environment that is less controlled—our daily lives.

Students can feel discouraged from considering STEM careers if they aren’t strong in mathematics, but Duhita serves as an example to not let that stop you. Not only has she been successful in her own career, but she mentors graduate students and says it’s common to have students feel they won’t succeed in statistics because they weren’t great at mathematics. One of the most rewarding parts of her work is when these students are able to overcome that mindset. She encourages students to keep a curiosity about numbers, pay attention to how mathematics and numbers are everywhere and have real-world applications.

When we use mathematics and numbers in daily life—it’s a life skill.

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