Mathematics Educator Toni Chavarria


Meet Toni, A 6th grade Math Teacher at South Bronx Early College Academy in New York. Toni received her Bachelors in Mathematics and my Masters in Adolescent Math Education from Hunter College. She’s now married and a full time stepmother part-time stepper, roller skater, dancer and piano player.


Name: Coach Toni    

Alma Mater: Hunter College High School, Hunter College for Undergrad, Hunter College for Masters

STEM Career Path: Mathematics/Mathematics Education


It’s less about the young women of color who haven’t realized their future and more about the women of color who can carve a path, help students realize that they actually are cut out for stem


What/Who inspired you to pursue mathematics?

TC: A few people. Firstly, I was terrible at Math in Elementary school and in the beginning of middle school. A close friend of my parents offered to come over once a week and help me. She explained math in a way I had never heard before and she made it easy to understand.  Her name was Lynn. She was my first Mathematical inspiration and fueled my belief that I can do math...and do it well.  I always wanted to be a teacher but after meeting Lynn, I knew I wanted to be a Math teacher so that I could help kids just like me who needed someone to find an easy way to explain concepts.  

I remained friends with my fourth grade teacher since I left fourth grade until he passed a few years ago. He was an amazing Mathematician and shortly after I left fourth grade he became the elementary school math lab teacher. Because my school housed Kindergarten through 12th grade in the same building, I would visit him often through my high school years and he would always tell me that I wasn’t cut out for nursing which is what my parents preferred. He always told me that I should major in math but I unfortunately didn’t start until after the date of his passing. I tried nursing first but realized that I wasn’t cut out for it.  


You share a lot of tidbits from your everyday life as a math teacher. What has been the most shocking or interesting experience thus far?

TC: I recently found out that I am pregnant. Options for women in teaching that allow for baby care and career progression are annoyingly minimal. We are responsible for looking after, caring for, raising, and teaching other people’s children but there isn’t a robust provision available for mothers who are teachers to be able to teach their own children and bond with them. In graduate school, I watched videos about how the first few years of a child’s affect retention, compassion, ability to learn, language development, growth, etc.

As teachers we are most equipped to send prepared toddlers or children into the world to make it easier on other teachers for years to come but there is seldom an option to take an impactful maternity leave. I suppose this is not shocking because America is terrible with maternity leave but now that it is my story, I am livid about leaving my child at home after a few weeks to stimulate someone else’s child.  I just started a YouTube channel and an Instagram page called Toni Adulting. I’m going to document my journey through pregnancy and navigating my choice to go back to work after I give birth. I’ll start uploading content once the winter break starts. I want at least a year Maternity leave but I’m fairly certain that to do that, I would have to quit my job. 


Tell us more about Play Math Grow and how it has made a lasting impact in the STEM community.


TC: Play.Math.Grow started out of highschool although it wasn’t called that yet. I left Highschool quite good at math and loving it, so I quickly found people to tutor. I had about 2 to 3 consistent tutees and then all of a sudden, I started getting random phone calls because each one of my clients referred me to someone else. Play.Math.Grow was born because I quickly saw a need to connect 'every day'  language to the academic mathematical language that is presented to students in school. People do math every day but they don’t realize it. I figured that if students actually realized that a simple translation stood between their mathematical actions and their understanding of it, they may actually attempt to figure out the very subject that they strongly dislike. I provide online tutoring services and home tutoring services if you live in New York.


Fun Fact about you.  

TC: I used to remove lice out of kids’ hair as a job and I have vitiligo.


For young women of color that are interested in pursuing a  career  in mathematics, how do they get there?

TC: They need strong women of color in their life to help them. It’s less about the young women of color who haven’t realized their future and more about the women of color who can carve a path, help students realize that they actually are cut out for stem, encourage them when A and P 101 or Calculus 4 makes them want to give up etc. 

Best Advice You Have Ever Received?

TC: Be twice as good as your counterparts


Thank You Toni For Being A STEM Superstar!

Follow Toni’s socials and learn more about how you can support Play Math Grow!


Instagram: @:playmathgrow