For almost three decades, Dwight’s Math teacher Beverly Soares has been teaching the subject she loves.
She shares her passion in the classroom and inspires students to demonstrate their own mathematical sparks when going head to head against peers in competitions in New York City and across the U.S.
We sat down with Ms. Soares to learn about her predisposition for figures and what she hopes her students have gained during her nine years of teaching and coaching at Dwight.
Please share your journey to education with us.
My father and all nine of his siblings were “math people” — and my three children also all went into a mathematical field — so I guess that you can say there is a math gene that runs in our family!
I grew up in Yonkers and excelled easily as a math student, so when I went to SUNY College, I majored in math. While I had always wanted to teach, I started my career as a marketing analyst with a heavy reliance on my math background. I later switched to pursue education, alongside a few other part-time jobs, while earning a Master's Degree from Lehman College in Math/Education and later my Doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, in Math Curriculum Development.
I have been teaching math for 29 years across private, public, and Archdiocesan high schools, as well as at the college level at St. Jean’s, Ardsley, Sacred Heart, Barnard, and SUNY. Additionally, I’ve served as an Educational Specialist for the New York Department of Education. My love of teaching extends to Sunday school, where I have taught religion for over 25 years.
What is your educational philosophy?
I firmly believe that all students — wherever they are and wherever they attend school — have the right to learn and the right to try. For 14 summers, I volunteered to work with adults who are developmentally disabled in a Sacred Heart sister school in California. While there, I connected with many people with Savant syndrome, including the person who was portrayed in the film, Rain Man, who really can do math faster than I can enter numbers into my calculator.
Witnessing the growth of people with disabilities always inspired me when returning to my classroom each year. From this experience, I learned how all students can walk into mathematics at any level and learn. They just need the ingredients of dedication, practice, and a good attitude. The teacher is there to help students perfect their skills.
Additionally, while written assessments are, of course, important, I am an advocate of project-based learning because of how it prepares students for their future. This year, we were given the opportunity to administer the usual final assessment or to assign a final project. I jumped at this opportunity and gave my students a list of projects from which to choose. This allowed them to delve into one topic that most interested them.
What grades do you teach?
This year, I’ve been teaching grades 8, 9, 11, and 12. I prefer teaching different grade levels each year, as it challenges me to scaffold students’ learning so that they can show growth without being pressured.
I’ve taught a variety of courses, including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus, SL I and II and college-level courses. My favorite is Geometry, with Statistics a close runner-up!
What do you love about math?
I love the challenge of solving a good math problem. It is so satisfying when you figure out the answer and are able to use it for a specific purpose. For every math problem solved, your critical-thinking skills are enhanced. Even my house was purchased because of its math possibilities — one of my favorite rooms is trapezoidal!
In addition — pun intended! — everyone needs math and problem-solving in everyday life. Many people don’t even realize how much basic math they do on a daily basis, from calculating store discounts to figuring out when to start cooking to be ready for a dinner party when guests arrive. When I teach math, I hope that my students can learn to love math — or at least appreciate it — as much as I do.
Tell us about how Math Team competitions work.
Dwight’s Math Team is an after-school club for Upper School students who enjoy and excel in math. We meet weekly to prepare for, and enter, several local and national league competitions throughout the year.
- Arete Labs Math Competition, a live online match-up: Our team competes against students from across the country starting each fall. They continue until the team has a loss and is eliminated. When each session begins, I’m cut off from the site and don’t know students’ scores until the time is up. It’s always heart-pounding!
- MathLeague, a paper-and-pencil test six times a year: Students compete both individually and as a team on each test, and cumulatively for a final score. While MathLeague is nationwide, Dwight competes in the New York City division, which is highly competitive!
- Educontest, a four-time paper-and-pencil test: Students compete both individually and as a team on each test, and cumulatively for a final score, against their schools throughout the U.S.
- American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) 10/12 is the most prestigious competition: Students in grades 10-12 compete individually against students across the country. High scorers move on to the AIME (American Invitational Mathematics Examination) round. I’m proud that several students I’ve taught throughout my years at Dwight have been invited to take the AIME exam.
Additionally, eighth graders can participate in a match-up called the AMC 8, a paper-and-pencil test, in which they compete with classmates in their own school for first, second, and third place.
Congratulations on coaching students to success this year! Please tell us about it.
Dwight students stood their ground in most contests, and our 2019-20 team placed fifth in New York City in the MathLeague and eighth out of 50 in our league in the U.S. in the Educontest. I am so grateful to our loyal members: Benjamin Lee ’20, Xinyi (Helen) Liu ’20, Yiqiao (Elaine) Song ’20, Zunyu (Cordilia) Zhao ’20, Chloe Trujillo ’21, and Jack Tonkin ’23.
Benjamin was a high scorer in the AMC 10/12, and was invited to take the AIME A test. This was a nerve-racking experience for him, as New York City shut down due to COVID-19 the day before the test was to be administered. Luckily, Fordham University in the Bronx stepped in and allowed Ben to sit for the test there. However, the AIME B test was eliminated because of the pandemic, so unfortunately, the final AIME scores were canceled.
This year, our team had only a few members, which certainly put the pressure on — especially when we went up against large numbers in live competitions, so I hope to see more students sign up for next year’s team. Also, several of our math Lions are graduating, so I look forward to welcoming new students in the fall to join our ranks.
What do you hope students get out of competing?
I hope that students gain a feeling of success, and I rely on their tenacity to come to each session and do their very best. I have witnessed so much growth in returning Math Team members year after year. Students enjoy the competitive aspect of going up against students in other schools to show off their talent in a judgment-free atmosphere.
It’s never too early to start and I encourage ninth graders to sign up. While beginning students may not get the scores they hope for at first, by the time they reach grade 11 or 12, they’ll be stars!
What is your spark of genius?
My spark of genius is instilling a love for math in all of my students — it’s so important in their future studies and careers. I also try to help disadvantaged students through volunteer work. So many feel that college is not an option for them, and by working with other teachers in tutoring and mentoring programs, I hope to make a difference.
What is a little-known fact about you?
My daughter and I belong to Mensa!
That certainly does not come as a surprise to us!