Grad Member Spotlight: Mary Phillips Dournaee

15 July 2015

Mary Phillips Dournaee, M.S. Computer Science


Mary has taken all her experience as an engineer, computer scientist, math and physics teacher and developed a wonderful STEM resource called This website is a one spot stop for engaging and effective math/science curriculum including lessons, activities, games, and additional resources in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.

This whole process of creating an informative math teacher website, hosting it online, and providing relevant STEM education activities and research via blog and online media has also broadened Mary’s experience of how we use math and science in the real world. She’s currently looking for more ways to connect junior and high school girls to SWE and other STEM career opportunities.

Are you currently enrolled in a graduate program? If so, what is your degree program and research?

Just this year, I graduated from the University of Illinois (Springfield) program for computer science (master’s degree).  I had a great mentor, Dr. Mims, who helped me choose programming, technology, and design classes that linked computer science with educational applications.  For one of my UIS classes, I designed and implemented a simple adaptive pre-algebra diagnostic test that I was able to use in my classroom at the time.  In another, I created a handy user interface for helping my students graph multiple functions at a time to find intercepts.  It’s so energizing to link my passions: technology, math, and education.

You have done some great things for STEM education, can you tell us a little more about that? 

One program that really inspired me was the Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo amazing program called the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program (STAR).  It’s a summer program where teachers become scientists and do their own research project.  I did mine at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies.  My research was on the San Francisco bay possible, measurable climate changes and the affects on indigenous and invasive species.  So exciting!  I brought that experience back to the classroom and have my students do similar research projects.  One example is on my website at

Why did you decide to start this? What is your background?

Originally, I received my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cal Poly, SLO.  While there, I worked as a calculus tutor.  I loved working with small groups of students and helping them learn using different styles and strategies.  After college, I worked for a few years as a mechanical designer and energy engineer before deciding to move into math education.  I missed working with students on challenging math problems and watching as the spark of knowledge in them began to develop.

Anyway, I went back to school for my math and physics credentials as well as a math education master’s degree.  I now teach and tutor both junior and high school math students.  I love to use manipulatives and project-based learning to help students connect math to the real world.  While teaching, I’ve also completed my master’s in computer science (as mentioned above).

Now, I’m mostly tutoring and occasionally subbing in the local San Mateo school district while I develop my NewMathTeacher.Net website (and care for my super high energy 3 year old son who also loves math, by the way 🙂 ).  In a way, the website is a culmination of my own learning opportunities.  It’s so rewarding to have the opportunity to develop it.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Looking forward, I would love to get involved with some of the extraordinary online learning programs and online educational systems currently available.  Knowing first hand how exhaustively rewarding teaching is, I’d love the chance to help other teachers manage their curriculum and grading so that they can focus on the most important thing: the students and our future.


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