Photo courtesy of InspireIT

NIGERIA: My Letter to Mathematics

STEM activist Adanna writes a letter to the subject she feared most in school.

In hindsight, I wish I knew what I know now about your importance and your value.

Dear Math,

I wish I knew the truth about you before I met you. You are an interesting subject, unique in your own way, and very special.

Growing up, I heard stories about you. I had people tell me you were difficult, while others told me you were wonderful—if only I would get to know you better.

My younger self tried to fall in love with you, but it seemed the more I tried the more you put up barriers to stop me. Maybe those barriers were all in my head, just maybe.

My dear Math, many young girls dread your presence, as I did. Some have been told right from childhood that you are too difficult to handle, and this has made them run away from you. Those who gave you a chance and understood you early are glad they did.

The older I grew, the more I made extra effort to love you and understand you better. I have to admit that it was not easy for me though, as it is not easy for many girls to navigate math in school.

In primary schools, girls and boys sit down quietly to listen to your stories. They have dreams of becoming engineers, computer scientists, astronauts, pilots, writers, architects, scientists, pharmacists, doctors, and teachers.

In secondary schools, most of the boys are willing to confront you, while some of the girls do not want to be too forward in approaching you. Some of the girls silently back down.

In universities, your presence is always known.When I was seeking admission to a postgraduate course, I received an email that said, “Mathematics must be among the five subjects you passed in your school certificate examination before you can be admitted”. No matter how much I pretend not to notice, I cannot deny your influence in my life everywhere I go.

Even those who hate you cannot deny the fact that you are very important. Many groundbreaking discoveries that we celebrate today were made possible because of you, and you have changed the lives of many.

You have unlocked many mysteries and have contributed immensely to some of the most amazing discoveries in the story of mankind.

Math, I want more young girls to be on your friends list. I want them to understand you better and build a better relationship with you. You have a great role to play in their future. I do not want young girls to think you are too difficult to understand. I know you mean well, and I want them to know that, too.

In hindsight, I wish I knew what I know now about your importance and your value. I would tell my younger self to be more open to you, and to not to be ashamed to ask questions and to seek out a mentor.

To all young girls, I say, “Do not let fear of failure, excuses, what others think, or procrastination hinder you from learning maths.”  

I have a vision where all youth, and especially young girls, understand your ways and embrace you as their friend.


This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

How to Get Involved

Adanna is the founder of InspireIT, a free global mentoring program for young girls and women interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can follow InspireIT on Facebook and Twitter. To connect directly with Adanna, leave a comment or send her a message on World Pulse.

Story Awards: STEM Is for Everyone 21Send Me Love


What you do as well as your words are so inspiring and life changing. Keep up the great work.

Wendy Stebbins Founder/CEO I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Dear Adanna,

What a beautifully written and inspiring letter. You have made math friendly, and I hope thousands of girls get to read this in time to dive into maths and sciences. I remember being told that math and physics are for boys. Yesterday here in Canada it was announced that all high schools will offer coding. Change happens because of leaders like you.

In sisterhood,


Dear Tam,

Thank you so much!

Your kind words and support always inspire me to continue to do more.

I am happy to know that all high schools in Canada will offer coding, this is good news!




My sister eh eh eh My second daughter Divine said that Mathematics is like forcing her to eat cockroaches. I told her that it was like someone fires maggots into my throat. I need to photocopy your letter and post it to Mathematics.


Thanks my sister for this letter.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre, 713 Road, A Close, Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:


I love your letter.  A good way to make friends with a challenging subject.  I like to think of mathematics as a language of symbols that shows the relationships between real things and helps us to understand and predict the physical world.  When I taught my children mathematics we always used real things like cooking or money.  When I went to high school I was one of the only girls in the advanced mathematics class.  Girls need to make friends with this subject.  Thank you for helping to change that!

Dear Sharann,

Thank you so much!  I love the way you talk about mathematics, you make it sound so sweet :)

I think one of the ways teachers/tutors can make mathematics more interesting is by teaching it using real things like you did.



Dear Adanna

Brilliantly put together story. Mathematics and Physics are considered the subjects for boys as they are to become engineers, computer programmers, pharmacists and in other respective technical fields. Bio and Home science and nursing were the streams girls were mostly allowed to take admissions into during my time. Naturally I too was horrified at the look and language of math which was beyond my understanding. After grade 8th when I was in the process of choosing the subjects, my parents made the decision for me Bio science cause Maths might took more of the study hours as well extra guidance in the form of tutorials mean spending extra amount. Education is a big big business and a real profitable sector in my country. Teachers teach better in the coaching institute rather school. During my times a math teacher most of the time being a male was also an issue forcing girls to shun the subject. 

My another encounter with math as a paper happened at the post-graduate level when I fought tooth and nail to clear the Differential and Logarithm paper along with Chemistry to earn my degree.

Studying mathematics needs a different approach altogether. Logic and reasoning, problem solving skills and a make or break kind set of rules and challenge which normally are not the tools prefered to be given to girls. Stereotypes but the times are changing and the people too.

Just as I read the title of your story, my curiosity made me read it thoroughly and also to write about my experience with the subject. 

Congratulate you and 

Sending you love. 

Dear Rachana,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

You made very important points which cannot be ignored if we want more girls to embrace mathematics.

Times are changing indeed and I do hope more girls will embrace mathematics.



math you are always be my challenge thanks for inspiring :) 

Connect with a heart.  Live a life of empowerment. Influence to accomplished.



I am so proud of what you are doing sis, your letter describes exactly how I felt about mathematics sadly for me I fear mathematics to date, the generation behind us changes its attitude towards maths and take what pertains to maths and science head on thanks to your Inspire IT initiative.

Much love


Hi Adanna,

Thank you for this eye opener for young girls and women. Your letter to math has said it all. Hope many more girls get inspired to work in STEM, especially math. Thanks a million.