How One Teen Proves That Math Can Be Fun

Daily Point of Light # 7472 Jan 23, 2023

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Ansh Khurana. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

From a young age, Ansh Khurana has always been passionate about mathematics. He pursued math at the highest levels by taking advanced courses, tutoring younger students and joining math clubs. Yet, growing up in Arizona, a state which is ranked almost last in public education and was among the worst in the nation for high school graduation rates, Ansh didn’t see many kids who loved math like he did. Many of his public school classmates only attended school grudgingly and disliked school, particularly math.  

When Ansh and his family relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, it was a completely different experience. North Carolina ranks higher nationally, but still lags behind many states. Ansh had a “lightbulb moment” after  reading an article about the math teaching methods taught by Bob Moses. Ansh imagined what it could mean if every student in every state could have access to the best classrooms for mathematics.  

“Could everyone love math? Or, at least graduate without deficits?” he wondered. 

Ansh decided that, rather than pouring his time into competition math, which was tempting, he would help others excel in math, too. He started tutoring his peers and founded Math2Empower to bridge numeracy gaps that lead to poor math performance and increased rates of high school dropout. He began working tirelessly toward addressing math literacy.  

For Ansh, math has always been joyful. He knows that if kids are offered more resources and inspired math teaching, more kids will love math and graduate.  

What inspires you to volunteer? 

Today, the single leading reason that students of color drop out of high school in the United States is algebra. Failing algebra is fueled by deficits in math literacy that can be traced back as early as fourth grade. I learned that students who fail algebra are four times more likely to drop out of high school. 

To tackle the algebra problem, I realized I needed to get more math-talented people involved. After researching the algebra problem in the United States, I came across the Algebra Project and its founder Bob Moses. Moses was a leader in Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement and the founder of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee. Many years later, he founded the Algebra Project, an organization aiming to guarantee math literacy for all. Through his organization, Moses worked with many students from the inner city of Baltimore who had been consistently scoring at a very low percentile on their standardized tests and risked dropping out of high school. He used real life and engaging application problems to assist these students, and a few months later, these same students were passing their standardized tests.  

I was inspired by this story, and I realized that all students have the ability to excel in mathematics if given additional resources and assistance. A few months later, I got the opportunity to speak with Ben Moynihan and Bill Crombie from the Algebra Project. They encouraged me to continue my work with Math2Empower, and said that I was one of the keys to solving this algebra problem.  

Describe your volunteer role with Math2Empower.  

As the co-founder of Math2Empower, I pursue three main goals.  

First, I open dialogues and find solutions. We have ongoing dialogues with pioneering leaders to discuss systemic problems challenging students, and explore various solutions. We also promote interviews through Google Adwords grant funding. This year, we secured an in-kind Google Grant of $120,000. Thus far, we have been able to draw over 12,000 unique website visitors from 43 different countries. We have 150-200 daily visitors, and over 150,000 impressions from Google ads. Our website visitors view many of our pages that result in  44,000 interactions with our website. We have interviewed Ben Moynihan and Bill Crombie from the Algebra Project, Joel Rose from New Classrooms, and Richard Rusczyk from Art of Problem Solving 

I also support Math2Empower in providing engaging, accessible, free and uniquely helpful resources and fun games targeting algebra learning. The 122 algebra videos we post apply algebra topics to real-world scenarios. We also have posted math read-along books on our Youtube channel in order to foster a love for math starting from a young age. Within less than two weeks, we have garnered over 27,000 views and more than 100 subscribers.  

Finally, I am working on expanding Math2Empower to reach as many students as possible. Our model is replicable and we have spread to states across the country. Establishing Math2Empower chapters nationwide, we work to advance our online model, creating dialogue while planting boots on the ground. We have around ten individuals that are part of our officer teams, representing Math2Empower chapters in Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and more.  

Ansh (left), with his brother Neil, is the co-founder of Math2Empower, an organization dedicated to stemming high school dropouts due to challenges with algebra./Courtesy Ansh Khurana

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?  

Perhaps the most rewarding part of my work is seeing the impact I have had on others. Math2Empower’s Youtube channel has garnered over 25,000 views in just over two weeks of posting our read-along videos, and it has been amazing to see this. Recently, I received a message from a parent on the contact form of our website saying how these videos have been very helpful for her daughter, who was struggling in math. Our algebra games were also very helpful since they were very engaging and made her daughter see that math could actually be something enjoyable. 

After my experiences in Arizona, I founded my Math2Empower to accomplish just this: helping others excel and actually enjoy math as well. This gratifying message has inspired me to continue my nonprofit and spread its impact so others get the help they deserve.  

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?  

Before I started  working on Math2Empower, I always viewed students struggling with algebra as “victims.” That was before I came across Jamarria Hall. Jamarria Hall was a high schooler in Detroit, a city with very low literacy rates. He saw classrooms missing textbooks, students not interested in their education, and a lack of teachers. He determined that this simply could not be considered a proper education. He brought a very interesting human rights case against the Detroit Public School system, and is working towards guaranteeing a proper education for all children.  

After hearing about Hall’s story and actively volunteering, I came to realize that all students have the ability to flourish past the obstacles they face in their academics when they are given the proper guidance and resources. They can control their futures by flourishing in their academics and pursue a career that they will truly enjoy. I hope that with my organization, I am able to demonstrate this to others and help students recognize their full capabilities.  

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?  

One of the main things that Math2Empower does is interviewing leaders in the algebra space. We plan to invite Laura Overdeck of Bedtime Math, Drs. Bucci and McEwan from the Ohio State Math Initiative, Maisha Moses, daughter of Bob, Dr. Titu Andreescu of Awesome Math, and Larry Martinek of Mathnasium. We also have been in contact with Jamarria Hall about an interview, and learn more about his active civil rights case.  

Currently, Math2Empower has chapters in San Francisco, Dallas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey. In these respective chapters, we are working on partnering with different schools in the area to spread the resources on the Math2Empower website. We hope to launch Math Days in which we will host events for students and demonstrate that math can be something students can genuinely enjoy. In addition, we are in talks to create chapters in New York, Arizona, and even India!  

Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved?

The various problems that exist in our society today, including the algebra problem, require individuals, coalitions, and organizations to come together to solve them. Getting involved in one’s community is the first step in solving some of these problems. The idea for starting Math2Empower came from my decision to tutor a few kids in my community. Looking back at it, I am very happy that I took this first step since it launched me on a journey that I have enjoyed and has helped others as well.  

What do you want people to learn from your story?  

I want people to recognize that anyone is able to make a difference in their community. All it takes is completing the first step, and from there everything develops. Even if you are young, there is still so much that you can do to help out others. I hope to inspire more individuals to join my cause. I firmly believe that together, we can solve the algebra problem and ensure that millions of students excel in their academic careers.  

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Ansh? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Jarmila Gorman