Rich is so passionate about improving math education that she became involved in the field even before finishing her college degree.
Rich, who graduated from the University of Mississippi May 12, turned her enthusiasm for math into her honors thesis, "Technology Use in High School Mathematics Classrooms in North Mississippi." She observed four teachers in the region teaching two different math classes and interviewed them about their opinions on how technology should be applied in the classroom.
"There are so many new education technologies, and many teachers are not informed about effective technology use or trained in use of educational technology, but some are," Rich said. "So the reason I wanted to write my thesis (on this) was to see how Mississippi teachers are doing."
She credits William Staton, Ole Miss professor of mathematics, with encouraging her career path.
"He teaches with enthusiasm and inspires you to want to learn more," Rich said. "He is gracious with his time, devoted to his students, and his classes are challenging."
During the fall of her freshman year, she joined the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, and was the first Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, double major scholarship recipient, enabling her to pursue both a mathematics and a mathematics education degree. In return, she worked two hours a week at the center.
"While working at the CMSE, Mary Margaret was able to interact with graduate students pursuing their master's and doctorates in mathematics education, as well as interact with faculty involved in mathematics and mathematics education," said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. "Mary Margaret played key roles in helping us achieve our mission of improving mathematics and science education in Mississippi.
"We have had the opportunity to watch her grow professionally into an outstanding student and someone who is passionate about mathematics and mathematics education."
And what is Rich's advice about math?
"Don't let a past experience with math influence your feelings. Give it a chance, because everything in the world is based on math. It is the most consistent subject we have," she said.