Math Therapy

The Math Guru


Math Therapy is the inspirational podcast that works through your math trauma, one problem at a time! Each week, Vanessa Vakharia (aka The Math Guru) chats with a different guest about their relationship with math and explores the educational highs and lows that can make or break our self-confidence. Whether you think you’re a “math person” or not, you’re about to find out that math people don’t ACTUALLY exist - but the scars that math class left on many of us DEFINITELY do! And don’t worry - no calculators or actual math were used in the making of this podcast ;)

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52 episodes

Math reform under attack w/ Jo Boaler

Math Therapy is (briefly) back!  Weve been hard at work on a new season which I cant wait for you to hear soon, but I had to share an excerpt of one of the interviews I just did - youll see why.  Stanford professor Jo Boaler is one of my math heroes, I referenced her all through my masters thesis, and her work in trying to make math education more equitable has been an inspiration to literally millions of people. But there are some who disagree with her vision so much that they have taken things far beyond the classroom, from accusing her of academic dishonesty to media attacks which have led to threats of violence towards her and her family.  So I wanted to share her story of the renewed attacks that shes currently dealing with - if she has helped/inspired you in your math journey please let her know! __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

Mar 23
S4E10: Queering math w/ Dr. Anthony Bonato

In our final episode of the season, Vanessa chats with math professor Dr. Anthony Bonato about what it means to be queer in - let’s face it - the historically snobby and closed-minded field that is math. But as soon as you hear Anthony in today’s episode, you’ll understand there will be no silencing his advocacy for diversity & inclusion in math … or for that matter his insistence that Adele’s album titles actually form a unique prime-numbers based mathematical sequence?!  Anthony discusses how pop culture can be a tool to make math education more fun, and also how the richest mathematical problem solving that is needed to solve our world’s great challenges can only reach its full potential if we are involving EVERY person in the process. *THIS EPISODE WAS RECORDED IN DECEMBER 2021; ANTHONY MENTIONS A POTENTIAL INVASION OF UKRAINE BY RUSSIA, WHICH WAS BEING DISCUSSED AS A POSSIBILITY IN THE NEWS AT THE TIME, BUT NO INVASION HAD BEGUN YET. ABOUT ANTHONY SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

May 26, 2022
S4E09: Giving students the voice they deserve w/ Rosalind Wiseman

Did you know that the infamous math movie Mean Girls was actually inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s non-fiction book called ? Today Vanessa talks to Rosalind about why we need to change the media and messaging that girls get about how it’s not “cool” to be good at math. How can we teach students that they can be good at more than one thing? How can we help them embrace who they are individually in the face of the completely insane pressures of high school!?!  Well, don’t despair; Rosalind has a whole career’s worth of inspiring answers to those questions, and provides hope that we can fix our messed up education system. ABOUT ROSALIND SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

May 19, 2022
S4E08: “Dude Walls” & the lost women of science w/ Katie Hafner

You’re probably thinking “what the F*CK is a dude wall?!”, and today Vanessa talks to the incredible Katie Hafner to find out.  Katie is an author, journalist, and host of the podcast “Lost Women of Science,” whose mission is to tell the stories of female scientists who history has inconveniently forgotten. But how do we prevent this from happening in the future? How do we encourage more girls and women to go into STEM, and how do we ensure their portraits aren’t left off the walls of our academic institutions? ABOUT KATIE SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

May 12, 2022
S4E07: Defying Asian math stereotypes w/ Steven Tran

One of the missions of this podcast is challenging stereotypes, and on today’s episode we tackle a big one: Asians and math. Steven Tran grew up with Asian parents, and the pressures and expectations from his family, community, and society as a whole affected his perception of his own math ability.  Getting caught cheating in high school could have led him down a very different educational path if not for a teacher that treated him with genuine care and compassion, and, most importantly, believed in Steven and him so.  Steven tells Vanessa about how that experience informed his own approach to teaching his students math as a tutor at The Math Guru. ABOUT STEVEN SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

May 05, 2022
S4E06: From mathochistic to mathcurious w/ A.K. Whitney

This one’s for all the adults out there who are like “hmmm maybe it’s not too late to learn a little math…”! On today’s episode Vanessa talks to journalist A.K. Whitney, who went back to school at 38 to learn math and chronicled it in Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, and her own podcast/website delightfully titled “The Mathochism Project”. She is basically the definition of overcoming math trauma and making it less of a stigma - but how did she do it? Why don’t more people do it? And how can we make math less traumatic for women and girls? ABOUT A.K. SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

Apr 28, 2022
S4E05: Compassion & confidence in the classroom w/ Sophie Soberano

Nothing shows how important teacher-student relationships can be than actually being friends with some of your students over a DECADE later, as is the case with Vanessa and Sophie Soberano. Sophie was one of Vanessa’s first tutoring students, long before The Math Guru even existed! Sophie went from daily math meltdowns in high school to becoming a math teacher who leads her class with compassion and creativity, and today she shares how she uses a mindfulness approach to get her students ready for learning before class. Whether you’re a teacher, a student, a parent, or you just want to hear some hope and optimism about overcoming math anxiety, this episode is for you. ABOUT SOPHIE

Apr 21, 2022
S4E04: Dancing on the moon w/ Dr. Merritt Moore

Today’s guest has a dream: to dance on the moon.  With a robot.  The craziest part?  This is actually an attainable goal for Dr. Merritt Moore, better known as the “Quantum Ballerina”! Merritt has a PhD in Atomic & Laser Physics and is also a professional ballerina, and if that’s not enough for one resumé, she was recently selected for astronaut training. She went viral during a pandemic lockdown with a video of her dancing with an actual robot as her partner. Today, Merritt tells Vanessa about her fascinating journey, how all her interests intersect, and the inspiring role her parents played early on in fostering an environment in which learning was not just encouraged but celebrated. ABOUT MERRITT,takes%20to%20be%20an%20astronaut. SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

Apr 14, 2022
S4E03: 4 million subscribers watch this guy do math w/ Grant Sanderson

Today’s guest is an actual celeb in the math-world. We’re talking A-list, we’re talking literally MILLIONS OF FANS. Grant Sanderson explains very high level math on his YouTube channel, 3Blue1Brown, in a way that is accessible for anyone to tune in and learn from!  Vanessa and Grant discuss how he makes math so appealing and unintimidating, how a feeling of discovery or usefulness can help students develop a sense of ownership over a topic, and how teachers can motivate their students to pay attention offline in the classroom. ABOUT GRANT SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

Apr 07, 2022
S4E02: Is math the ultimate catfish? w/ Terilisha

We’re not the only ones who binge-watched Netflix’s The Circle over the pandemic, and one reason we were OBSESSED was the breakout star of the show: Terilisha, a math teacher AND musician, who stole our hearts with her IDGAF attitude! Today Vanessa chats with Terilisha about her experience on the show, how the media (and society) struggle to accept that people can be multifaceted, how the educational system fails us early by not prioritizing practical math skills like personal finances, and how she’s determined to defy the stereotype of who/what a “math person” can be. ABOUT TERILISHA SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __

Mar 31, 2022
S4E01: Can math predict the Oscars? w/ Ben Zauzmer

Will you be watching the Oscars this Sunday, comparing the winners with your predictions? Well one person who will be is our first guest of season 4 - Ben Zauzmer, author of Oscarmetrics!  Ben, who is also the director of baseball analytics for the New York Mets, uses stats from past and present awards to try to predict this years winners, and we also discuss representation and diversity among award winners and across all media, as well as the classic Math Therapy debate: can math and pop culture truly be BFF? SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Mar 24, 2022
Season 4 drops March 24!

We are BACK!  Weve got 10 incredible and inspiring guests lined up for the new season of Math Therapy, each with a totally different history and relationship with math. Season 4 launches March 24th and because that’s a few days before the Oscars, we’re starting with a fascinating chat with Ben Zauzmer, author of Oscarmetrics - he uses statistics to try to predict this year’s winners!  We discuss some juicy topics like representation and diversity in the media & among award-winners, and how math and pop culture can totally be BFF, so I can’t wait for you to hear it.  Until then, you can: __ __

Mar 17, 2022
S3E10: How math rehabilitated a murderer w/ Christopher Havens

When this podcast started, interviewing a convicted murderer - while he was still in prison, no less - was admittedly not on Vanessa’s “Math Therapy guest” bingo card. But then we heard how Christopher Havens discovered math in solitary confinement halfway through a 25-year sentence, and committed the rest of his life to rehabilitating himself and repaying his debt to society.  On today’s season 3 finale of Math Therapy, Vanessa chats with Christopher about how a lack of purpose in his youth and the misguided desire to be “cool” led him down a very dark road, how math gave him a sense of spirituality and purpose in prison, and how his own rehabilitation led him to withdraw from the stereotypical “prison game” and devote the rest of his life to developing programs and resources for other prisoners to do the same. ABOUT CHRISTOPHER SHOW NOTES __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Jun 10, 2021
S3E09: I’m not a math person, don’t @ me w/ Bex

The year was 2020. A tweet went viral on the interwebs and Vanessa damn near lost her mind. Somewhere in the UK, Bex had tweeted that the best part of being an adult was “opting out” of math; online mag Bustle picked it up and next thing we know Bex was on our podcast - turns out she’s even more hilarious over Zoom than she is on Twitter! On today’s episode she describes how dyscalculia (number dyslexia) influenced her rocky relationship with math, how she learned to cope and ended up working in the financial industry, and how things could have been different if she had better educational support at school.  And as a bonus, she shares how her give-no-f*cks attitude helps her ignore the haters on social media - get ready to laugh, cry, and contemplate all your life choices! ABOUT BEX SHOW NOTES __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ TRANSCRIPT FOR TODAY’S EPISODE: WWW.MATHTHERAPYPODCAST.COM

Jun 03, 2021
S3E08: There are no stupid questions w/ Roger Fischer

Alright teachers, this one’s for you! Today Vanessa chats with Dr. Roger Fischer, an educator from Montana who is not just a hardcore fan of the podcast but also a natural math therapist himself! Roger explains how small instances of math trauma can lead to long-term effects on students, how he incorporates mindfulness and compassion into his lesson plans, and how there is absolutely no such thing as a stupid question. ABOUT ROGER SHOW NOTES __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

May 27, 2021
S3E07: Challenging stereotypes by fulfilling them w/ Abby Govindan

We all hate harmful stereotypes, but have you ever thought of breaking stereotypes … by simply fulfilling them?! Being an Indian woman who doesn’t like STEM carries many consequences, and on today’s episode, Vanessa talks to South Asian comedian Abby Govindan about how women are pressured to either resist or conform to social and cultural expectations, and how she’s navigated that struggle through humour - especially through provocative tweets which is how Vanessa found her in the first place! ABOUT ABBY (ed. note - this is literally the bio she gave us :) SHOW NOTES __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ TRANSCRIPT FOR TODAY’S EPISODE: WWW.MATHTHERAPYPODCAST.COM

May 20, 2021
S3E06: Why representation matters w/ Brittany Rhodes

Forget Uber Eats - get some math delivered to your doorstep! Yep, that’s a thing, and it’s all thanks to Brittany Rhodes, the founder of math-activity subscription-box company Black Girl MATHgic! Vanessa chats with Brittany about why she saw a need for representation in math education, how consistency is the key to kids building confidence in their skills, and how her quest to show Black girls that they belong in the world of math has been so successful that she’s even received a shoutout from Beyonce! ABOUT BRITTANY SHOW NOTES __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

May 13, 2021
S3E05: How brands can use their power for good w/ Candace Borland

Late last year AT&T ran a full-page ad in the New York Times depicting a mother and daughter in despair over math homework, and Vanessa was NOT impressed.  Whether we realize it or not (and we usually don’t), the media plays a massive role in shaping everything from our collective social values to our individual self-worth.  So what if brands acknowledged that responsibility and used marketing not just to sell products but to also promote positive change in the world?  Today Vanessa speaks with Candace Borland about how she is doing exactly that as president of Anomaly Canada, one of North America’s leading creative agencies.  Together they explore the power of marketing to dismantle stereotypes instead of perpetuating them, and they discuss how consumers can constructively hold brands accountable. ABOUT CANDACE SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

May 06, 2021
S3E04: Mathfluencers, Mean Girls & more w/ Esther Brunat

Yep, you read that right: mathfluencers are the future of education and today’s guest is leading the way! Esther Brunat and The Squadratics (think Mean Girls but like, if Mean Girls somehow had even MORE math) are on a mission to market math to Gen Z, and they’re gaining mad momentum. Today Vanessa talks to Esther about how teachers can embrace new technology, genuinely connect with their students, and even learn valuable marketing lessons from hideous footwear trends. See you on the gram! ABOUT ESTHER SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Apr 29, 2021
Extra Credit: Spirituality & Science

This seasons interviews were all done remotely over Zoom with our producer Sabina Wex and technical producer David Kochberg listening in, and the conversations were so much fun that we often kept chatting after the actual interviews were over!  Vanessas convo last week with astrologer Anthony Perrotta got us all especially fired up, and since she and Sabina are super into astrology and tarot, and David is super NOT, we wanted to share a little bonus episode diving further into the overlap of science and spirituality. Have you had any spicy discussions like this?  Tweet us @maththerapy about them!  And well be back on Thursday with our next full episode featuring a real life mathfluencer - yes seriously a MATH INFLUENCER!!!

Apr 27, 2021
S3E03: Albert Einstein was a f*cking Pisces w/ Anthony Perrotta

If you follow Vanessa on Instagram, you may know that a) she has gotten into astrology, and b) that is controversial for an aspiring mathfluencer**.  So today Vanessa is joined by modern astro-celeb Anthony Perrotta to discuss how his background in architecture and love of math led him to exploring patterns in the movements of our universe and the use of sacred geometry through history.  Together they explore how spirituality and science can coexist and even complement each other, why younger generations are pulled more towards tools like astrology than religion for spiritual comfort, and how Vanessa’s birth chart reading explained why she won’t ever STFU ... so whether you’re a believer, a skeptic, or maybe just a bit astro-curious, there’s something for everyone in today’s convo! (** btw, “mathfluencer” is totally a real thing as we learned this season - do not miss next week’s episode because we interviewed one!) ABOUT ANTHONY CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Apr 22, 2021
S3E02: The math teacher that changed my life w/ Ewa Kasinska

It is no exaggeration to say that this podcast (and Vanessa’s entire career in math education) would not exist if she hadnt crossed paths with superhero math teacher Ewa Kasinska in high school. Today, Ewa spills the tea on what Vanessa was like as a 17-year-old, how she managed to turn a math-hater into a Math Guru, and what the media gets wrong about teachers, and she also shares her fave tips for teachers on how to engage, inspire, and excite even the most skeptical students.  Ewa also came VERY prepared, and the conversation starts out basically like an episode of Ellen with a blast from Vanessa’s past! ABOUT EWA CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Apr 15, 2021
S3E01: A drag queen walks into a math class ... w/ Kyne Santos

Season 3 of Math Therapy kicks off today with a brand new theme: math in the media! Historically, media representations of math have left a LOT to be desired, but change is in the air and we are HERE for it. Today Vanessa chats with / fangirls over Kyne Santos - a true trailblazer when it comes to showing how complex and multi-dimensional we can be if we give ourselves permission! From fierce competition on Canada’s Drag Race to taking math viral on TikTok, they discuss how Kyne has been redefining stereotypes and courageously breaking down boundaries in both the Queer and math communities. ABOUT KYNE SHOW NOTES: __ __ CONNECT WITH US: __ __ Transcript for today’s episode:

Apr 08, 2021
Season 3 Trailer

Season 3 starts April 8th, and for the next 10 weeks Vanessa Vakharia, aka The Math Guru, will be exploring the relationship between math and the media with a diverse range of guests.   Subscribe now! Follow Vanessa @themathguru on Instagram or Twitter Math Therapy is also on Twitter: @maththerapy Transcript for this episode can be found at

Apr 01, 2021
Mailbag #2: Teachers Tell All!

WE'RE BACK!!  WELL, WE'LL BE BACK FOR REAL APRIL 8TH WHEN SEASON 3 OF MATH THERAPY OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES.   TO GET IN THE ZONE, TODAY VANESSA IS SHARING A FEW SHORT STORIES WE RECEIVED FROM SOME TEACHERS WHO ARE DETERMINED TO BE PART OF THE EDUCATION SOLUTION AFTER THEIR OWN BRUSHES WITH MATH TRAUMA. If any of these stories resonated with you, let Vanessa know @themathguru on Instagram or Twitter, and follow our brand new Twitter account @maththerapy! If you have a story you want us to consider for future mailbag episodes, here are instructions: __ __ Transcript for this episode can be found at

Mar 25, 2021
The square root of possible w/ the creators of Netflix's Jingle Jangle!

It’s a Math Therapy holiday miracle!!  After bawling her eyes out watching the groundbreaking Netflix Christmas movie JINGLE JANGLE and raving about it to literally everyone in earshot, Vanessa had the most festive chat in the history of the podcast with the film’s creators!  WRITER/DIRECTOR DAVID E. TALBERT & PRODUCER LYN SISSON-TALBERT discuss representation on screen and why they chose to make math such an integral (didn’t you miss the math puns?!) element to this magical story. Connect with the film and it’s creators: __ __ And find Vanessa @THEMATHGURU on all socials.  Happy holidays and stay tuned for Season 3 of Math Therapy coming in 2021!

Dec 17, 2020
S2E10: Why is no one listening to John Mighton?! w/ John Mighton

This season of Math Therapy might be over, but not before Vanessa meets her own personal mathematical hero, Canada’s very own Dr. John Mighton. Brace yourself for a season finale filled with joy, laughter, and tears (shockingly, NOT Vanessa’s) as Vanessa and Dr. Mighton dig deep into the way in which math, the most divisive subject of all, could actually be the key to achieving social & systemic equity if we only knew how to help teachers and students unlock its powers, once and for all. Spoiler: you’re going to want to have kleenex nearby for this one! ABOUT JOHN @jump_math and @jump_math TODAY’S SHOW NOTES & LINKS: THEMATHGURU.CA/MATHTHERAPY/JOHNMIGHTON REACH VANESSA ON ALL SOCIALS: @THEMATHGURU

Aug 06, 2020
S2E09: Nature, meet Nurture w/ Tamara Rebick & her kids

This week Vanessa goes out on a limb and does something she’s never done before on the pod: she talks to real, actual children (and their mom, of course)! Despite her rocky relationship with math growing up, Tamara Rebick chats with Vanessa about her determination to show her two daughters that math ability isn’t genetic, and that anyone - even MOMs, can do math. Her two kids Eden and Nomie also share their very different feelings about math class, math teachers, and well, math in general! ABOUT TAMARA Tamara is Founder and Chief Experience Officer of CORIPHERY Holistic Consulting Solutions, a boutique consulting firm that promotes respectful disruption in organizational culture and systems by challenging the status quo with audacious authenticity.  Tamara is an eternal optimist, a community catalyst, a night owl and most importantly, mom and role model to her two daughters, Eden & Nomie. Follow Tamara / Coriphery on Instagram @coriphery and twitter @CORIPHERYcanada And follow Eden’s baking business on Instagram @obsessed_cupcakesbyeden (which definitely requires a lot of math!) TODAY’S SHOW NOTES & LINKS: THEMATHGURU.CA/MATHTHERAPY/TAMARAREBICK REACH VANESSA ON ALL SOCIALS: @THEMATHGURU

Jul 30, 2020
S2E08: Mathematicians: they’re just like us! w/ Sunil Singh

Ever wonder what it would be like if your math teacher was like, the editor of TMZ and like, if your textbook was filled with juicy goss about all of those seemingly-boring-actually-scandalous mathematicians that plagued your high school existence? Today Vanessa talks to Sunil Singh about how different our relationship to math would be if we humanized mathematics through storytelling, and - he spills the TEA, bigtime! ABOUT SUNIL Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of MathematicsMath Recess: Playful Learning in an Age of Disruption TODAY’S SHOW NOTES & LINKS: THEMATHGURU.CA/MATHTHERAPY/SUNILSINGH REACH VANESSA ON ALL SOCIALS: @THEMATHGURU

Jul 23, 2020
S2E07: You can’t be what you can’t see w/ Renee Powers

You’d think by 2020 we’d finally be done with the archaic views society has traditionally held on women and math ... um, not quite.  Today Vanessa chats with Feminist Book Club founder Renee Powers about the different ways that boys and girls perceive mathematical intelligence, why women get a bad rep when it comes to reading maps, and how feeling confident with math might actually be the secret to tackling economic equality. ABOUT RENEE TODAY’S SHOW NOTES & LINKS: THEMATHGURU.CA/MATHTHERAPY/RENEEPOWERS REACH VANESSA ON ALL SOCIALS: @THEMATHGURU

Jul 16, 2020