August 11, 2021
By: Bob Conger
I have been a volunteer for The Actuarial Foundation in a range of roles over the years, but only recently joined the ranks of the tutors in the Math Motivators program in 2019. My wife, Maggie, and I had just relocated to Washington, D.C., to be near our young grandchildren, and I was looking for meaningful ways to connect with people and activities locally. I was excited when I read that Math Motivators was starting up in D.C., as I was certain that this program would enable me to do something very worthwhile for local youth while also plugging me into a group of actuaries.
Indeed, it has! I now appreciate that this program may be the most important challenge that the Foundation has taken on—lagging math literacy among many families in our target underserved communities is one of the impediments to breaking out of a cycle of poverty.
One memory from my second month of Math Motivators tutoring always brings a smile to my face. It was a wonderful moment of shared jubilation with Jordan, one of the two middle school students I was tutoring one hour per week at their school. Jordan usually had been pretty comfortable with math, but he was having trouble making the leap into the world of algebra, with its inscrutably sinister casts of unknown “x” and “y” characters. Not only his math, but also his very self-confidence, were starting to suffer. One Wednesday afternoon, as Jordan worked on a particular set of challenging algebra problems, I could see—from the light in his eyes and from the way he was gripping his pencil—that the pieces were falling into place. He finished the problem set and exclaimed to himself with excitement, “I think I’ve got this!”
He then challenged me: “Give me some more problems like this, but harder ones!” I quickly fabricated several increasingly tough problems; he tackled each of them with vigor—and success. The sound of the joyous laughter that Jordan and I shared while we did a spontaneous “high five” still echoes happily in my ears, and I feel great knowing that if the Foundation’s Math Motivators program helps Jordan gain the confidence to tackle the math problems of daily life and of his dream career in a recording studio, we will have made an important difference that will echo throughout his life.
This summer, the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) is donating $40,000 to The Actuarial Foundation and challenging members to give an additional $10,000 to help grow two programs, including Math Motivators, through the CAS Community Counts Challenge. Please join me in supporting The Actuarial Foundation programs that truly make a difference in our communities.