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Matthew De Andrade

College: Queens College
Awards: Math for America Fellowship, 2014

Chasing Math's Mysteries

It was in the seventh grade when Matthew De Andrade’s teacher made the astounding statement that there was no way of knowing every prime number. “And I remember saying, ‘No way. I don’t believe that.’ That’s how I got into math. The mysteries are still there.”

At Queens College he began exploring abstract realms of mathematics, including cardinal numbers, which count sets of objects, and was even more intrigued. “Certain cardinal numbers are infinite. From a certain, technical, perspective, there actually are different kinds of infinity, with some bigger than others.”

De Andrade, who graduates in 2014, intends to share his enthusiasm for the mysteries of mathematics with New York City’s public high school students – a career he will prepare for with the help of a Math for America Fellowship.

This highly competitive award pays for a three-semester master’s in secondary mathematics education at City College. It also provides a $100,000 stipend spread over five years, including the first four years of teaching, in addition to the regular teacher’s salary. This long-term payout aims to retain new teachers during the stressful first years in the classroom, when attrition is highest.

De Andrade has tutored math and English since high school at The Child Center of New York’s location in Woodside, working with students aged 6 to 17. “That’s when I gained an appreciation for what goes into teaching,” he says. He also tutors at the Queens College Seek Learning Center and for private clients.

“Being a teacher is a great career path,” he says. “I know what it’s like to help someone, and it’s a good and happy experience. I also want to encourage studying math. It’s such a beautiful and misrepresented subject.

“Mathematician Edward Frenkel [of the University of California-Berkeley] makes this analogy: A lot of the time when people study math at a young age, it’s as if you were in an art class and learned how to paint a fence, and the next time the teacher has you paint a fence with a rose, and the next time a fence with a person. And you never ask the teacher, ‘When are we going to learn to paint a face?’ There’s no hint to the student that if you go far enough with math, you can create your own. I want students to know that math will stretch their imagination and that there is so much more to learn than you do at the outset.”