Actuarial Foundation Helps Students Master Math Skills

Multiplier Effect Associations Now July/August 2019 Issue By: Mark Athitakis

By connecting its number-crunching members with young people who struggle with math, the Actuarial Foundation’s tutoring program is both helping students succeed and exposing them to the actuarial field.

A board member of the Actuarial Foundation had an idea in 2016. He knew that there were public-school students in Hartford, Connecticut, who were struggling with math. Actuaries and actuarial students were using math every day. Would it be possible to connect the two groups?

In response, the Foundation organized a call to actuarial students at the University of Connecticut, and about 50 immediately volunteered. From that initial outreach, the program, now called Math Motivators, has expanded fast: The Foundation links 600 volunteers to students at 20 middle schools and high schools in Hartford and operates programs in Chicago; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Seattle; Lincoln, Nebraska; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Portland, Maine. A Boston program launches this year.

The Foundation now has one of the good problems that come with success—a waiting list of schools hoping to participate in the program.

The project has been a boon for the students, who get one-on-one tutoring with volunteers from the actuarial world. And it’s also helped expand the horizons of the Actuarial Foundation and its supporting association, the Society of Actuaries, by exposing it to students and professionals who may not be familiar with the organizations serving the profession.

”As we’ve expanded to other cities that might not have a university resource, we’ve partnered with companies with large actuarial departments or have actuaries on staff,” says Actuarial Foundation Executive Director Jason Leppin. “Those companies have been very responsive in partnering with us.”

The Foundation keeps the Math Motivators program, which was honored with a Summit Award in the 2018 ASAE Power of A Awards competition, up and running by using hired or volunteer part-time coordinators in each of the cities where it operates, connecting schools that have students from underserved populations with colleges and companies that can provide volunteers. That’s required some increased investment in staff and technology. But Leppin sees benefits down the road for spreading the word about actuarial science as a profession.

“We’ve seen a lot of questions and answers with the students and mentors and tutors,” he says. “‘How did you become an actuary? Why did you become an actuary? What college did you go to? What’s your job like?’ It’s really been a thoughtful conversation. They’re learning from each other.” 

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled “Multiplier Effect.”]

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis is a contributing editor to Associations Now.