Life-Changing Love of Math
Michole Washington is the ninth African-American female in 131 years to graduate with a degree in applied mathematics
After earning her degree in applied mathematics, Michole Washington plans to expand the tutoring company she launched while at Georgia Tech.
“It hasn’t completely hit me yet. I still feel like there’s some exam I didn’t finish or some assignment I didn’t turn in,” Michole Washington explains. “I can’t believe this moment is finally here.”
She is just the ninth African-American female to graduate with a degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. And, if she’s honest, this moment almost didn’t come.
Washington grew up in a single-parent, low-income home in Riverdale, Georgia, just south of Atlanta.
“To get away from it all, I literally used to just go to the library and do math problems,” Washington says. “Math doesn’t scare me. Even if I’m wrong, or I don’t know how to do something, it’s still very satisfying to be wrong and learn how to figure it all out.”
When it came time to apply for colleges, she applied to Georgia Tech on a whim.
“I thought it was a reach school for me.” Washington recalls.
She sent her application the day before it was due, assuming she likely would be denied.
A few weeks later she was not only accepted, but she was also accepted during early admittance.
“It was like, whoa, I actually got accepted. Somebody actually thinks I’m smart.”
But another challenge arose: how to afford college.
“It’s not something my family or I would have been able to cover. I thought ‘Well, I had my chance and now it’s over.’”
Washington met the qualifications and was awarded a G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise scholarship, which covers the cost of attendance for qualified Georgia students from low-income families.
That means when Washington receives her degree, she will be graduating completely debt free. The scholarship also provided her with a semester of study abroad experience.
“It was my first time out of the country. I got to visit nine or ten countries,” Washington explains of her semester studying centered in Budapest, Hungary.
“It was amazing to see and experience different cultures and languages. Growing up in Riverdale, Georgia, it’s something I never thought I’d get the chance to see.”
But there were challenges. There were times Washington wanted to change her major. She never learned how to write proofs in high school, so she came to Tech less prepared than most of her peers. Her second year she hit a class that almost took her to her breaking point. But she toughed it out.
“I started to fall back in love with math in a different way,” she explains.
“Everything that has happened to me at Georgia Tech since day one has been life-changing. I couldn’t have imagined any of this coming from my background. I had never even been to Georgia Tech’s campus. Just getting the opportunity to be here changed the path of my life.”
Inspired by her own opportunities, Washington started looking for a way to help other young people get inspired to love math and science. So she launched Afrithmetic, a tutoring and mentoring company focused on minority students.
“We want to inspire communities that have been overlooked to produce STEM leaders. I want to make math exciting for them. Yes, this can be a fun subject. Don’t listen to all the naysayers,” Washington says with a laugh.
In the future, Washington plans to pursue master’s and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics and mathematics education, and continue growing her tutoring company. She also hopes to pass on her love and passion for math in a new generation.
“Math is like a helping verb in a sentence. It’s there to move everything else in STEM. IT’s such an important part of what’s happening in our world. We need more people who love math so we can make the next great discoveries.”