"The number of Black kids who enter mathematics as a career is low, and we are hoping to help change that."
That's according to Kagba Suaray, a mathematics professor at Cal State Long Beach.
"I wanted to create a space for the Black community to connect with each other and meet others with a shared interest in math," he said. "It's important to reframe the narrative of what it means to be a mathematician, particularly in the Black community."
Suaray founded the virtual Hesabu Circle at CSULB, a monthly meetup for math professionals, students and interested youngsters. Named after the Kiswahili word for mathematics, the monthly meetings are a space created by Black mathematicians and educators to help Black students of all ages connect with professionals.
"We have a low threshold and high ceiling problems in mathematics, especially among the Black community," he said. "When everything went down with COVID and the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, I decided it was time to do more and help fill a gap that we know is there."
Suaray added that while it's common for people to associate sports excellence with people of color, it's not as common to talk about prominent Black mathematicians — and that means less exposure for Black students.
"When you see someone who looks like you achieving, it makes you believe that you can get there too," he said.
During the meeting, participants can expect to talk about a myriad of topics that all circle back to math. That includes math in hip hop and African origins regarding math, as well as learning about Black mathematicians from around the world.
"We had a demonstration with turntables to show how math is used to create mixes in hip hop music," Suaray said of the first meeting last week. "With that, we go over the history of fractions and percentages and discuss how they factor into DJ-ing."
The ultimate goal, Suaray added, is to connect young Black students with Black professionals, fostering an environment that promotes an education beyond the classroom, while providing a space for tutoring and introducing potential lifelong mentorship.
"Math is part of you, it's something you use every day," Suaray said. "We didn't always have role models, but we can be role models for these kids."
Students of all ages and professionals in mathematics interested in helping lead the circle are welcome to sign up for the next Hesabu Circle happening on Saturday, Feb. 27. Email email@example.com.
More information is available on Instagram (@hesabu.circle), Twitter (@hesabucircle) and Facebook (search for "The Hesabu Circle).