Celebrating Women in Mathematics, by Denise Rangel Tracy and Oscar Vega

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) turns 50 next year, and in celebration a commemorative deck of cards has been created. Using one side of the cards, several different variations of a mathematical game called EvenQuads can be played. The other side of the deck features portraits and short biographies of 64 exceptional women mathematicians. This deck helps bring women mathematicians, both historical and modern, into the spotlight.

For many centuries, mathematics was a “boys club.” Women were not only not invited to participate in mathematical activities, but were actively discouraged from pursuing mathematics. Sofia Kovaleskaya had to fight against prejudice that closed the doors of universities to women in science. She ended up being the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics… less than 150 years ago. She went on to be the first woman to be appointed as a professor at a western university and had a successful career as a mathematician. Sophie Germain had to pretend she was a man to be taken seriously as a mathematician; she made great contributions to, for example, the advancement of the study of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Stories like these are not restricted to historical women.  In 2018, Lenore Blum resigned her Distinguished Professor position at Carnegie Mellon University after unsuccessfully fighting systemic sexism caused by changes in the management structure of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an organization she co-founded. Maryam Mirzakhani is probably one of the most famous modern-day women mathematicians. She grew up during a war, in a country that frequently infringes on women‘s basic rights, and yet earned one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics, the Fields medal.

Thousands of women have had to persevere through systemic prejudice, ill advice from mentors and teachers, and general bias against women’s abilities in mathematics and other sciences. While times have changed and some things have improved, there is still more to do. The EvenQuads deck highlights women who have led the way and made contributions to the mathematical community. Help make women mathematicians known to the world. Learn more about the project at


The Kickstarter campaign for the first EvenQuads deck (of four!) runs through November 18th.


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