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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

Back to Circle of Excellence
Nicole Michelle Joseph

Nicole Michelle Joseph

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education

Department of Teaching and Learning

Vanderbilt University



Where are you from?

Seattle, Washington


Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

In 3rd grade my mom had me moved to a different class because mom felt the teacher was racist. The only class available was the “advanced” 3rd grade class. When I moved into that class, I began to fall in love with mathematics because the teacher allowed us to go at our own pace. When I went to middle school, I had mastered “school mathematics” and took algebra in the 8th grade. I really enjoyed the topics, but the teacher was not great. Although I earned a B, I retook it in 9th grade and the teacher was amazing. I understood algebraic concepts better. The rest of the story is academic success through high school which motivated me to major in economics and mathematics (minor) in undergraduate. After I finished my BA and worked a few years in the business world, I decided that I wanted to do more with education, so I became a mathematics teacher. It was after I became a math teacher that I really began to understand various mathematics concepts at a deeper level. As a teacher, I had one goal–to help all my students, who were mostly Black, fall in love with mathematics, especially my Black girls.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

The most proud accomplishments are (1) becoming a mathematics teacher in K-12, (2) serving as an instructional mathematics coach, and  (3) becoming a mathematics education researcher –these three experiences provide me with an epistemological standpoint about teaching Black girls mathematics and informing mathematics teacher education.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

Proud accomplishments are (1) birthing a beautiful daughter, Gabrielle, (2) living an authentic life, and (3) having love, cheer, and challenge in my life from family, friends, and colleagues.


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

Mathematics is one of the most powerful tools in life; look around you and within yourself to discover and mine all the ways you engage in mathematical thinking. Then share those discoveries with others, especially young people and those who think that they are not a “math person.” This personal and contextualized understanding of mathematics makes it come alive and people can see its value beyond a textbook or a classroom.