From problem of the week enthusiast to aspiring math teacher: Passion turns to profession

It all started at the International School of Manila in the Philippines. A young girl sat in the back of the class trying her best to complete the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing’s Problem of the Week. She looked forward to this challenge each week. That young girl was Ina Wang, born and raised in the Philippines and soon to be graduate from our Math/Teaching program. She is someone who excels in solving problems and someone who simply loves mathematics.

I had a conversation recently with Ina, who admits “I knew I was good at math, way back in elementary school, as it just came easier to me.” That’s about all she knew at that point in her high school years. She knew she was skilled in math and she wanted to pursue a university education in a STEM-related field to put those problem-solving skills to good use.

Little did she know that the Problem of the Week was generated CEMC outreach department here in the Faculty of Mathematics. Later in her Grade 11 year, a team from Waterloo’s recruitment and outreach department visited Ina’s school to do a mathematics workshop. “It was this session that really sealed the deal for me,” says Ina. “And I finally connected the dots that the people visiting my school promoting mathematics were the same people behind the Problem of the Week and the yearly contests!”

“Once I realized this, I hung onto every word of the session, solved almost every problem and asked questions about life as a student at Waterloo. I can remember one discussion point in particular,” says Ina. “Something about 7 of the top 10 best jobs relate back to an education in mathematics! That stuck with me and I realized not only could I put my mathematics skills to good use, but I could be confident of coming out of university with an education that was useful and in-demand in the real world. At that point in high school, I was mostly considering schools in the USA, but the workshop and info sessions really put Waterloo on my radar as an ideal destination for my post-secondary education in mathematics.”

“I was definitely intrigued by the session from Waterloo, but it wasn’t until I had a good conversation with another math teacher in our school who was a graduate from the Waterloo Math/Teaching program as well. He provided great insight and confirmed some of the important points from the session and shared some of his positive experiences at Waterloo.”

Fast forward a few years and Ina did in fact choose to study at Waterloo. She has been an active member of our student ambassador team, where she works closely with the recruitment team and a group of other student volunteers to help recruit the next class of students for Waterloo Mathematics. Life has certainly been busy for Ina, juggling demands between school, volunteering, socializing, but she is glad to have made a difference with her work on the ambassador team.

“I’ve enjoyed working with recruitment because I truly believe it’s about helping prospective students find the right fit, not the ‘best’ school, or most well-ranked, but the one that is a RIGHT choice for you,” says Ina. She adds, “I really did think that Waterloo was the best fit for me, and I was right. I am a math enthusiast and having a whole faculty designated for mathematics with many programs and different courses just made sense. With this community, I don’t feel like an outsider here, and I feel like I found my people who also share in the love of mathematics. And I feel incredibly lucky to have discovered it back in my high school in the Philippines.”

Now, Ina is nearing the completion of her undergrad degree and will be convocating in October 2021. She is looking at her next steps in life. She has learned so much here at Waterloo and is thankful for this time. She will be sad to close this chapter, but will ultimately always be a Waterloo recruiter in a way, just like her math teacher was for her in the Philippines. She is thankful for those visits to her school a few years ago, thankful for the opportunities that it brought and excited for the next chapter in her life where she, too, will recommend Waterloo Mathematics for some of her future best and brightest students, wherever she may end up teaching.

What I’ve realized, is that the recruitment team doesn’t work alone. We piggyback off the work of the CEMC, we rely on alumni sharing their positive experiences and we try to connect the dots for students and guide them through the university admissions process.  We all play a part in the recruitment cycle in a way—and if you’re that Math/Teaching alum at the International School of Manila, I’d like to personally thank you for helping to send Ina Wang to Waterloo.

If you are interested in learning more about national and international outreach workshops, virtual events or our ambassador team, contact Meg McLellan by email at