Jasmine Uboma is a whiz at analyzing and solving problems involving numbers. Now, the second-year statistics student at Western is trying to help solve a long-standing problem: the low number of Black students and professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in Canada.
Uboma has started Beyond Math, a tutoring service that helps students develop analytical and critical thinking skills, including in math.
Uboma grew up in Kitchener, Ont. and Milton, Ont. At school, she realized she was usually the only Black student in her math and science classes. She thought about it, and concluded the problem was one of image and support systems.
“Black students are told they are better off as athletes instead of academics, or there are not enough resources around that help cultivate the academic talent of Black students,” she said. Meanwhile, the resources that were available to encourage students to take up STEM were not being promoted. Few Black students seemed to be aware of these supports, even if they were interested or had the aptitude for STEM studies.
In 2020, in the middle of pandemic-related restrictions, Uboma started Beyond Math, helping elementary and high school students develop critical thinking skills and work on math. She used books to get children to understand and use analytical reasoning.
In three years, Beyond Math has been instrumental in getting many young Black students to develop critical thinking skills and be aware of support systems available to them if they are interested in studying STEM subjects. The chief operating officer of Beyond Math is Jamike, Uboma’s younger brother, now a high school student in Milton. A high-performing math student, Jamike helps younger children hone their mathematical problem-solving skills.
The chief strategic officer of Beyond Math is their mother Nnenna, an analytics senior leader with a financial institution. They created the workbooks which Jasmine, now the chief executive officer of Beyond Math, and Jamike use to train students in math. The workbooks are graded by difficulty according to school levels.
“It’s one thing for support systems to be there for Black students. It is another for people to know about them. We need to let people know that there are these support systems that want to see you do better and help you succeed,” said Uboma.
She hopes that programs like Beyond Math will encourage high school students to continue with STEM post-secondary studies.
Uboma is now also a member of Women in STEM (WIS) at Western, a club that promotes STEM subjects through interactions and events and provides current university students with guidance for the future. As a director of external affairs for WIS, Uboma is a critical part of the club’s outreach strategy.
“My work at WIS continues what I have been doing through Beyond Math. The idea is to encourage young people to take up STEM, and continue to nurture them through college,” she said.