- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

When Lou DiGoia became a Mathalete in eighth grade, he never imagined he would make a career out of it.

“I knew very early that I wasn’t going to be the star of the football team,” Mr. DiGoia said. “But math competitions gave me the chance to compete in something I enjoyed and did well in.”

This month, Mr. DiGoia was promoted from director of operations to executive director of the MathCounts Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria.

The MathCounts Foundation gives out free handbooks to 49,000 math teachers nationwide. It also hosts an annual math competition in which the nation’s best middle-school math students compete for an $8,000 college scholarship.

Mr. DiGoia said that math has helped him throughout his life, even if his problems weren’t addition and subtraction.

“I’ve always liked problem solving, and math helped me to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem,” he said.

As the foundation’s executive director, Mr. DiGoia is looking for new ways to get students excited about math.

“The U.S. has a major shortage of kids getting involved in math, science and engineering, and there are industries that are going to need those skills,” Mr. DiGoia said.

The growth rate of science and engineering degrees awarded in the U.S. has fallen to half of the 4 percent rate from 1980 to 2000, according to 2005 figures from the National Science Foundation.

“Math teachers say they don’t have the time or resources to get kids involved,” Mr. DiGoia said. “We hear that all the time, and it’s often because teachers have stress placed on them from standardized testing.”

Mr. DiGoia said that getting teachers and parents involved is crucial to the MathCounts program.

“We clearly see the benefits of getting students involved in math while they are young, and what we need to do is get schools and teachers to see those benefits,” he said.

Mr. DiGoia’s colleagues said he has the energy and leadership to make math exciting and get more people involved.

“He has a true enthusiasm for what he does and it reaches beyond the point of passion,” said Bruce Lawson, chairman of the board of MathCounts. “He’s shown great negotiating skills during past national math competitions, and he has the leadership to help us create new strategies.”

Mr. DiGoia will need to tap those skills as he coordinates the 2007 National Math Competition, scheduled for May 10 to 13 in Fort Worth, Texas.

He has been organizing the event for months to make sure that the contest’s 228 middle school students — and countless teachers, parents and sponsors — have everything they need for a successful competition.

“The national competition is always the highlight of the year,” said Mr. DiGoia. “It’s incredible to see so many people working for the same goal.”

Mr. DiGoia graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in American government. He lives in Springfield with his wife, Sarah, and their son, Jack.

— Bryce Baschuk

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