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Sonya Kovalevsky Program

Montgomery College’s Sonya Kovalevsky Program seeks to increase girls’ interest, confidence and competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program provides participants with innovative learning opportunities while helping them to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Register for Sonya Kovalevsky Day

We are excited to announce that Montgomery College is holding annual Sonya Kovalevsky Day at our Rockville Campus this fall!

Date and Time: Saturday November 18, 2023, 9:15 a.m. - 2:15 p.m.
Location: Rockville Campus, Montgomery College

Sixth-grade students from Montgomery County middle schools may apply.  There is no fee for participation. The first 48 sixth-grade students from Montgomery County Public Schools will be accepted.

Register Now


Who Is Sonya Kovalevsky?

Sonya Kovalevsky was the first woman to earn a doctorate in Mathematics. Sonya worked independently attending lectures wherever she was permitted. She earned her degree in 1874 from the University of Gottingen in absentia after writing three dissertations.

In 1888, Sonya won the Prix Bordin, a prestigious prize given by the French Academy of Sciences for her memoir, On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point. In 1889, Sonya was awarded an appointment as lifetime chair in mathematics at Stockholm University and membership in the Russian Academy. However, Sonya was still not offered any teaching positions at Russian universities that she desired nor was she allowed to attend the meetings of the Russian Academy.

The Sonya Kovalevsky Program is the result of a combined effort between Montgomery College and MCPS (Montgomery County Public Schools), with additional collaboration and support from UMD and USG. The Sonya Kovalevsky Program seeks to increase middle school girls' interest, confidence, and competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Sixth-grade students will apply to the program by completing the online form. The program provides participants with innovative learning opportunities while helping them to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. The long term goal of this program is to create an annual cohort of middle school girls we can track and support in pursuing STEM studies into high school and college.

This expanded program evolved from Montgomery College's annual Sonya Kovalevsky Day, which was designed for Montgomery County eighth-grade girls and their mathematics teachers. This annual event has been taking place at Montgomery College since 1996 as part of the College's commitment to increase the number of women pursuing the sciences and mathematics at the post-secondary level.

Purposes of the program: 

  1. To inform girls of the many career options that are available to them in mathematics related fields.
  2. To encourage girls to take as many advanced mathematics and science courses as possible while in high school so that they are better prepared to major in mathematics or a related subject in college.
  3. To encourage girls to pursue interests in careers that are still mostly populated by male students.

Women are underrepresented in science, engineering, and mathematics post-secondary education programs of study and professions. Educational experts point to middle school as the vulnerable period when girls start choosing not to take elective math and science courses, and studies suggest that children's beliefs about their abilities are central to determining their interest and performance in different subjects, the classes they choose to take, the after-school activities they pursue, and ultimately the career choices they make. Sonya Kovalevsky Day workshops focus on applying math, problem-solving, and analytical skills and promoting STEM career awareness. Additionally, there have been specific workshops for teachers involving innovations in pedagogy and technology.

Funding and support for the annual event has come from Montgomery College's Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Area (Rockville), Academic Initiatives and MC/MCPS Partnerships, the Montgomery College Foundation, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Tensor Foundation, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Montgomery County Inter-Branch. Additional funding from an AFCEA-Bethesda grant in 2012 has enabled the expansion of the annual one-day conference to year-round activities for middle school 6th grade girls. Because of this generous funding, there is no fee to participate in the program.

Montgomery College's Sonya Kovalevsky Program is made possible by funding and support from AFCEA-Bethesdanew window, Montgomery College, and other sponsors: 

AAUW Maryland - Montgomery County Inter-Branch

Texas Instruments (MD-DC-VA)