Sharing a Love of Math

In February, Luther hosted the 30th annual Iowa Collegiate Math Competition (ICMC). Hosting the event is an honor, since its host is determined by teams that did well the previous year (congrats to Anastasia Cicala ’26, Jack Moriarty ’24, and Supreme Paudel ’26). But beyond hosting, this event was significant for Ruth Berger, Luther professor of mathematics, who has coordinated the competition for the past 20 years and just passed the torch to former student Andrew Becklin ’12, now an assistant professor of mathematics at Drake University in Des Moines.

Andrew Becklin ’12 (left) is taking on the mantle of coordinating the Iowa Collegiate Math Competition from his former Luther professor Ruth Berger (right).

Becklin entered Luther thinking he was good but not great at math. Several Luther profs disagreed. He remembers one afternoon in Lounge 313 in Olin when Berger asked him to become a math tutor. He’d planned to go into actuarial science but, he says, “The tutoring went great. I was able to retool it into an active, engaged environment, modeling what I was seeing in my own classrooms with Luther professors. One thing led to another, and I ended up deciding I wanted to go into higher education.”

In grad school at the University of Nebraska, Becklin was able to work with students from under-­resourced backgrounds. “They didn’t have access to pristine high school educations and experiences, and I learned to appreciate how positive experiences in the math classroom could change their outlooks and opportunities,” he says. “I think that a lot of people compartmentalize themselves as just not being good at math, definitionally. Like that’s something that’s accepted in our society—to say, ‘I’m just not a math person.’ I tend to not agree with that, and I try to change that mindset in my students.”

Andrew Becklin '12 (standing), who teaches at Drake University, supervises students at the Iowa Collegiate Math Competition. At this year’s ICMC, a team from Iowa State placed first; Luther’s team of Anastasia Cicala ’26, Minh Nguyen ’25, and Elliott Stuenkel ’26 took second; and one of Drake’s teams placed third.

Of course, the students who compete at ICMC don’t need convincing—they already have a well-defined love of math, and this event gives them an opportunity to share it. This year, ICMC brought 17 teams from seven colleges and universities together to puzzle out 10 rigorous problems. One of the highlights of the competition—before students file out to compete in closed rooms in groups of three—is a social hour, held this year in Valders Concourse. It gives students an opportunity to shake off some nerves, meet some new friends, and play low-stakes games like SET.

“To me, the value of the competition is getting students from all over Iowa together in one place,” Becklin says. “We have a wide range of schools represented. We’ve got R1 institutions like Iowa State mixing with midsized private universities like Drake mixing with smaller liberal arts colleges like Luther. It creates a good opportunity for students in different areas with different resources to interact and build community.”