Hortensia Soto, professor in the Department of Mathematics, has been named the president-elect of the Mathematics Association of America.
In this role, Soto will mark several firsts: She will be the first Mexican president of the organization, the first from Colorado State University, and the first who specializes in mathematics education.
“Congratulations to Hortensia on this well-deserved honor,” said Jan Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “As a mathematics education expert, the work she does has a lasting influence on generations to come, and as the president of the Mathematical Association of America she will be able to extend her reach nationally and contribute to the MAA mission of advancing the understanding of mathematics and its impact on our world.”
Elevating Mathematics Education
Soto found her passion for mathematics during high school.
“I had a great high school math teacher,” said Soto. “He was ahead of his time in terms of teaching. We did group work; he had us explore ideas first and then share out and present.”
It was this teacher who encouraged Soto to pursue a major in mathematics in college. From there, Soto followed her passion to a career focused on mathematics education.
“In both my research and my teaching, I work with in-service and pre-service teachers from kindergarten to collegiate level,” said Soto. “I create learning environments where students engage in mathematical thought experiments or where they engage with mathematics in either physical or virtual settings. In these various settings, learners experience mathematics through their bodies. Thus, in my work, I pay attention to learners’ gestures, facial expressions, and body movement as they develop and convey mathematical concepts.”
Soto said that mathematics education is not always seen as prestigious as other areas of mathematics. She hopes that with her presidency, she will be able to transform that stigma.
“For example, it not uncommon for those in my area to say, I have a Ph.D. in mathematics, but my dissertation is in mathematics education. In my mind, sentences such as these negate our work,” said Soto. “Just like a number theorist says, ‘I’m a number theorist,’ or an algebraist says, ‘I’m an algebraist,’ I just want to be able to say I’m a mathematics educator, and I want my colleagues to be able to say that with pride.”
Soto has seen mathematics education embraced by more of the mathematics community in recent years and certainly the MAA is known for its commitment to undergraduate mathematics education. She feels very fortunate to be part of a department who also values this field.
“I think that both applied mathematicians and pure mathematicians are coming to see the value of mathematics education, especially as institutions try to address issues of equitable teaching in the classroom and to support students from minoritized groups,” said Soto.
Soto credits the gains she has made in her career to the people who have given her opportunities.
“I have been really lucky that people have taken me in and nurtured me in the mathematics community. They have trusted me to take on new roles and opened doors for me,” said Soto. “So that is something that I want to do in my role as president of MAA. I want to be very conscious of opening doors, holding the door open, and walking people through the door.”
Soto’s colleagues are excited to see her enter this role.
“This is wonderful news! We are extremely fortunate that Professor Soto joined the Department of Mathematics last year,” said Ken McLaughlin, chair of the Department of Mathematics. “She is an inspirational leader, and mathematics, as well as mathematicians, will benefit from her dedication and wisdom as she serves in the role of president of the Mathematical Association of America.”