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Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day for celebrating the achievements of women in STEM. Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician whose incredible work on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine earned her recognition as the world’s first computer programmer.

Today I’m reflecting on some of the women in STEM who have influenced me directly. I remember well my mathematics classes in secondary school. For most of my five years, from age 11 to 16, I had the same mathematics teacher, Mrs Beck. Throughout that time I felt encouraged and enthused by my teacher and also felt pushed to achieve my best in a supportive environment. I realise now that having the same, excellent teacher for much of my secondary school mathematics learning was something to be grateful for. Much has been said in the media about the difficulty some schools have in recruiting and retaining mathematics specialists. It is easy to see how pupils who face a high turnover of teachers then struggle to develop a confidence and enthusiasm for a subject. With these factors and others outside of a pupil’s control, it is sensible to conclude that exam grades achieved at school are not necessarily a good indicator of someone’s potential in a subject.

During my time at high school, computer studies was starting to appear as a GCSE subject on the high school curriculum and again, my first classes in this subject were with Mrs Beck. Looking back, I feel very lucky to have been taught by her for so long during an important part of my learning.

At university I was taught in a mathematics department that was approximately 50% male and 50% female, and two of my mathematics lecturers were female. Phyllis Mason, now retired, helped me get through the abstract world of Real Analysis at undergraduate level with her excellent lectures, accompanied by worksheets produced on a Gestetner machine that left a very distinctive odour on the page that will definitely never be forgotten! Mary Rouncefield was a lecturer who introduced me further to the world of probability, statistics and understanding data, having already had a taster of it at A Level. Mary now works as an artist, bringing together both mathematics and art in an inspiring and imaginative manner. I urge readers of this blog to google her artwork and check it out. I am proud of the fact that I have a genuine ‘Rouncefield’ in my house!

A couple of years after completing my PhD I returned to the high school environment as a trainee teacher, and enrolled on an early version of what was to become the Schools Direct route into teaching. As those who have completed teacher training will know, the trainee year involves a lot of work, can be very demanding and can be a steep learning curve. I was assigned an experienced mathematics teacher, Carol Harding, as my mentor and I certainly owe her a great deal of thanks for the wonderful advice and support that she gave me during that year. It was also clear from observing her teaching, that she was a fantastic teacher who was well respected by so many of her pupils.

So, as I feel fortunate to have been influenced by Mrs Beck, Phyllis Mason, Mary Rouncefield and Carol Harding, I urge everyone reading this to reflect back today on some of the highly talented and dedicated women in STEM, particularly those that have inspired you.

The hashtag #AdaLovelaceDay is trending on twitter, so a follow of this hashtag will enable you to discover more about the Countess of Lovelace and other pioneering women in STEM.

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