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Math is an Engaging Puzzle for This Teacher – and Her Kids

Through our work at NMSI, we meet and work with hundreds of rock star teachers across the country. They all have one thing in common: a continued passion for learning. In honor of World Teachers Day, we're focusing on one teacher’s passion that inspires her students — and her children — to become lifelong learners. 


Mary Beth Lawhon's passion for math stands out — even in a room full of math teachers.  

Even at 8 a.m. on a summer morning, Mrs. Lawhon is buzzing with excitement. She's fast-talking, always smiling and eager to finish the practice problems before her peers.  

This summer she spent four days at NMSI's College Readiness Program Summer Institute in San Diego, learning new lessons, activities and strategies hoping to not only engage her students, but to also spark their own passion for math. 

"When I was in ninth grade, I had Algebra I with Mr. Otis Harlan, which was a tobacco-chewing teacher with overalls and one strap undone... and he just made me love math," Mrs. Lawhon shared.  

"I decided in ninth grade I wanted to be a math teacher, a Universal Studios tour guide or a pastry chef. I went math teacher." 

It suits her. As a self-proclaimed nerd, she confessed that she keeps a calculus book under her couch and often works through problems at night for fun. 

"[Math is] just like puzzles. Every day I go to work I love my job — it's like I get to work puzzles." 

 Her love for learning affects more than just her students: Mrs. Lawhon proudly shared that three of her four children grew up to be teachers, like her; the fourth, a mechanical engineer.  

Now, Mrs. Lawhon teaches AP Calculus at Desert High School on Edwards Air Force Base in California. Since the school joined NMSI's programming as part of NMSI's Military Families Mission, she has attended multiple  trainings across the country. 

"It has just changed my life. It has changed my way of teaching. It's changed my understanding, it's changed how I teach math. I can't express how grateful I am to NMSI because it really put me on a different level." 

Take some time today to thank a teacher that ignited your passion for learning -- then share with us what made them so special!