The New Math

Layla Dawit ’22 wins an award and reflects the changing faces in STEM.

MATHCOUNTS, a nationwide middle school math competition, has long helped Sidwell Friends Middle Schoolers get pumped about math. Layla Dawit ’22 knows that excitement firsthand. “MATHCOUNTS was a really fun part of my Middle School experience,” she says. “When I was in the 7th grade, I was part of the first all-girls team to represent DC at nationals, and it was a historic win.” Historic and demanding: After three qualifying rounds, the top four competitors from each state move on to the national competition.

Now, Dawit has received a prestigious college scholarship from the MATHCOUNTS Foundation: The award recognizes outstanding alumni from the program, and she was one of only two recipients. Dawit, who is also a 2022 Coca-Cola scholar, credits her early success at MATHCOUNTS as a determining factor in her fondness for and skill with numbers.

Dawit says her passion for math came early. “It started off in Lower School with the Wednesday Morning Math program,” she says. “I always tried to do the hardest problems, even if they were written for kids a few grades older than me—even if they were meant for the oldest kids on campus, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it.’” She also credits Maria Koziebrodzka, her high school advisor and math teacher, and Andrew Callard, the leader of Sidwell Friends’ MATHCOUNTS Club, for nurturing her love of math. “Mr. C. presented math as a series of exciting puzzles,” Dawit says, “and Ms. K. encouraged me to dive into problems, taking my work to the next level with more rigor and elegance.”

Of course, being part of the first all-girls team to represent DC at MATHCOUNTS nationals back in 7th grade only accelerated that enthusiasm. It was also where she learned to draw strength from other mathematically inclined girls: “Just seeing other girls around you is a big confidence boost.”

It is also a mission. Dawit is the co-founder of the award-winning student magazine Gxrls in STEM, which is devoted to empowering female and nonbinary high schoolers around the world to pursue their passions in STEM. The magazine has had contributors from five continents.

Now that she is headed to college and looking to the future, Dawit wants to continue to serve as a role model to other students, especially girls, who are interested in math and STEM. “I want younger students to know that there are girls and people who look like them in these fields,” she says. “It’s not like you’re the only one.”

Photo courtesy of Layla Dawit
Layla Dawit ’22 (Sidwell), Sarah Murad ’22 (Sidwell), Avani Ahuja ’22 (GDS), Ashley Fujiyama ’21 (NCS)

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The New Math

Layla Dawit ’22 wins an award and reflects the changing faces in STEM.