The Mathematicians Project: Mathematicians Are Not Just White Dudes

What is the Mathematicians Project?

The Short Version:

  • We as math teachers tend to only talk about white male mathematicians.
  • Most of my students don’t look like that, and thus, they have few mathematical role models they can identify with.
  • Take 10-15 minutes a week to research (read Wikipedia, that’s all you need) a not-old-dead-white-dude mathematician, and then take 5 minutes in class to tell your students about them.  Include a picture. It’s worth it, I swear.

If you’re in, go ahead and scroll down for names of mathematicians and links or feel free to use this searchable spreadsheet, which is periodically updated.

I’ve blogged at MTMS about this project in far more detail than I have here. Check out those four posts below.

Post #1 The Mathematician Project

Post #2 How to Enact the Mathematician Project 

Post #3 What I Learned About My Students

Post #4 Extensions of the Mathematician Project

For the super excited, you can read the paper I wrote about the project below.

Mathematicians Paper

Please post in the comments what is most helpful. Nothing would make me happier than to hear that others have adopted this project and have improved on it. Some people already have! Below the list are additional links of websites and projects that people have done. 

Also share any mathematician you think I should feature here and I will update. Pester me if I’m taking too long or seem to have forgotten. 

[UPDATE: It has been pointed out that several of the “traditional” mathematicians we talk about were likely not, in fact, white. Euclid, Eratosthenes, & Pythagoras have all been mentioned to me as likely not having been white. I think this conversation with students can be productive. I’ve certainly talked to students about it, and about why the images we see of these men are of traditionally looking white men. If you have one like it with your class, I would be curious to hear how it went.]

A List of Not White Men Mathematicians with Links


Men (alphabetical by last name)

Artur Avila (Brazilian) b. 1979

Longer article & video


David Blackwell (African American) 1919-2010

Jose Adem Chain (Mexican) b. 1921

Ngô Bào Châu (Vietnamese) b. 1972

Shiing Shen Chern (Chinese) 1911 – 2004

Elbert Frank Cox (African American) 1895-1969

Other Bio

And another

Ismail Mustafa al-Faliki (Egyptian) 1825-1901 Very little info here. I must have gotten him from a book. I’ll let you know what that is if/when I find it again. 

Heisuke Hironaka (Japanese) b. 1931

Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi (Persian) c. 780-c.850

Kunihiko Kodaira (Japanese) 1915-1997

Victor Neumann-Lara (Mexican) 1933-2004

In Spanish, but a longer bio here.

Robert Eugene Megginson (Native American) b. 1948

Kelly Miller (African-American) 1863-1939

Another bio

Herman Mena (Ecuadorian)

Shigefumi Mori (Japanese) b. 1951

Srinivasa Ramanujan (Indian) 1887-1920

And another

And again

This could go on for a while

There are also lots. of. books. on. him

Diego Rodriguez (Mexcian) 1569-1668

Thomas F Storer (Native American) 1938-2006

Richard Tapia (Chicano) b. 1939

Terence Tao (Chinese Australian) b. 1975

And another

John Urschel (African-American) b.1991

He’s a football player, and awesome. 

Scott Williams (African American) b. 1943

Wen Tsun Wu (Chinese) b. 1919

Shing-Tung Yau (Chinese) b. 1949

Women (alphabetical by last name)

This book is a great resource for many of these women.

Annie Easley


Maria Chudnovsky b. 1977

Fan Chung (Taiwanese-American) b. 1949

Joan Clarke (1917-1996)

BBC article on Enigma Code

Sue Finley  (American) modern

Popular science article

Hannah Fry (English) modern

Another with a picture. 

Courtney Gibbons (American) modern

Concha Gomez (Cuban American) modern

Nancy Grace Roman

Margaret Hamilton (American) b. 1936

NASA Tribute

Euphemia Lofton Hayes (African-American) 1890-1980

Hypatia (Greek) c. 350-415

Grace Hopper (American) 1906-1992

Mary Jackson (African American) 1921-2005

Mae Jemison (African American)

Katherine Johnson (Coleman) (African American) b. 1918

She worked at NASA.

And was generally amazing. 

They’re making a movie! Take all your kids!

Nalini Joshi (Indian-Burmese-Australian)

An excellent video

Frances Kirwan (British) b. 1959

Sofia Kovalevskaya (Russian) 1850-1891

Isabella Laba (Polish) b. 1966

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Vivenne Malone-Mayes (African-American) 1932-1995

Maryam Mirzakhani (Iranian-American) b. 1977

Stanford Article on Fields Medal

Quanta Article

Emmy Noether (German) 1882-1935

There’s a lot out there on her.

Because she was amazing.

Stunning, really.

Hee Oh (S. Korean) b. 1969

Fun article including her work with Apollonian Gaskets

Marian Pour-El (American) 1928-2009

Marjorie Rice (American) b. 1975

Sally Ride (American) b.

Doris Schattschneider (American) b. 1939

Marjorie Senechal (American) b. 1939

Caroline Series (English) b. 1951

Mary Somerville (Scottish) 1780-1872

Jean Springer (Jamaican) b. 1939

Alicia Boole Stott (Irish-English) 1860-1940

Daina Taimina (Latvian) b. 1954

Karen Uhlenbeck (American) b. 1942

Dorothy Vaughn (African American) 1910-2008

A Human Computer. 

Trans Mathematicians

Adrian Scott Duane modern

FYI, I should say that I cringed to use the labels “Men” and “Women” because of a former student who has graciously educated me more about transgender and non-binary people, but I recognize that those labels are still helpful as categories. 

General Resources for Researching Mathematicians

Lego NASA Women 

Women of NASA to be Immortilized in Lego Form

Biographies of Women Mathematicians

Black Heroes of Mathematics

Black Mathematical Excellence

Grandma Got STEM

Math Mentoring Project

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora (h/t Keith Devlin)

Macarthur Fellows

Mathematicians Born/Died on this Day This has a huge number of mathematicians. You’ll have to seek a bit for the non-white-male ones, but you can look at the Birthplace Index to help out. (h/t Andrew Thomas)

Math History Course Notes courtesy of commenter below. Includes Sophie Germain.

“On Being a Black Female Math Whiz During the Space Race” NYTimes

Awesome Things Great Teachers Have Done:

I have no good visuals for this project. The best I’ve got is this map that 1) Is scaled to accurately represent area 2) Gets pins for the location of each mathematician we introduce to class.

mathematician wall

I also have added a Hidden Figures poster with tags on each of the women. 2017-03-13 13.07.44

Each of which I like and students enjoy. But Brian (on twitter @_b_p and blogging at has made some excellent printable posters to put up and he’s been kind enough to share them here! What a nice guy!



22 thoughts on “The Mathematicians Project: Mathematicians Are Not Just White Dudes

  1. So excited to find your page and these resources. Doing something like this with my students was one of my hopes for this year. So encouraging to read about your experience with it!


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