Wed | Jun 7, 2023

To the third power!

Three sisters-turned-mathematics teachers impart their knowledge of the subject to their charges

Published:Friday | March 25, 2022 | 12:09 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
From left: Sisters Donya Gordon, Donneilla Gordon, Donnisha Murray.
From left: Sisters Donya Gordon, Donneilla Gordon, Donnisha Murray.

Sisters Donnisha, Donya and Donneilla personify the algebraic expression, ‘to the third power’. The three sisters have many things in common, but their love for arithmetic and number theory, geometry, teaching and mathematics take precedence. The trio is currently honing their skills together at Jonathan Grant High School in St Catherine.

Donnisha Murray, the eldest sibling, has been teaching at the school for the last seven years. Murray, who teaches mathematics on her YouTube channel, ‘DG Makes Math EZ’, told The Gleaner that her effort is about influencing a positive attitude towards the commonly dreaded subject.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to influence a change in the attitude of learners toward mathematics. I am working on some mathematics games that would be beneficial to schools all over Jamaica,” she said.

“I want to use my talents and gifts to transform as many lives as possible, so I’m always driven to solve problems I encounter. I think mathematics teaching should be attractive,” Donnisha told The Gleaner.

Her grasping an opportunity while a teacher was on maternity leave propelled Donnisha to her calling. She told The Gleaner that successfully teaching a topic to her peers became the deciding factor to pursue a career in the subject.


“It was as if something was unleashed in me. I recognised it as my gift. My very good friend and constant motivator, Elvy Soltau, would always remind me and tell others of how I used Digicel’s free nights in 2010 to teach CXC math to her and some of our friends from the Clarendon Adventist Youth Drill Team,” the math enthusiast shared.

Charged with making a positive impact in the lives of others, the 28-year-old enjos the bond with her siblings. “Whenever I get the chance to talk about them I am elated, because it is something special. We laugh at corny math jokes together, laugh at each other’s math-related mistakes’s beautiful,” she said proudly.

Speaking of meeting up at work with her sisters, she said, “We don’t live together any more, so when we get together at Jonathan Grant [High], it is like a recreation of what we used to have at home. It’s a real sister party. We work hard and play hard together.”

She added: “We discuss lesson plans together. We laugh to release stress together. To top it off, the members of the mathematics department of Jonathan Grant have a unique bond, so we all are really comfortable. The principal, Dr Ankle, is really proud of us, too.”

Donnisha said she is a role model to all her five siblings.

Her 25-year-old sister Donya conceded, lauding her as a very influential part of her life.

“Donnisha has impacted my life in so many ways. They say you learn from your own experiences, but truly, you can also learn from the experiences others have had. There are always little learning moments from what she has experienced that really impacted my life. She pushes me to learn, fight to be more independent, and to be more organised in learning new things,” Donya told The Gleaner.

For Donya, a teacher for three years, her students are at the centre of all she does. “I want to help my students realise that they are capable of completing whatever task they put their minds to, and help them understand that mathematics can help them in more ways than they think,” said Donya.

The youngest of the trio, Donneilla, 21, is currently in her final year at The Mico University College and serving as a practicum teacher. She harbours dreams of working alongside her sisters permanently as a trained educator. Donneilla told The Gleaner that having two older siblings working in her chosen career field has created a safe haven for her. Speaking of her decision to venture into teaching mathematics, Donneilla shared, “I just knew that my sisters were teachers and I was going to be one, so I was just trying to figure it out on my own. I told myself that if they did it, I can do it, too.”


She also credits her fifth- and ninth-grade teachers for unearthing her love for the subject. A 99 per cent score in the then Grade Six Achievement Test, now Primary Exit Profile, mathematics examination was added motivation for her.

Donneilla related: “That score was the greatest motivation for me, because I knew that I had a reputation to uphold in the subject. In addition to that, I had another awesome math teacher in the ninth grade who ensured that everyone had a positive mindset towards the subject, and it was at that point I just knew that mathematics was just that one thing that I would love more than anything.”

The sisters laud their parents, crediting their sacrifices for their success. “Our father was the sole breadwinner, while mommy took care of the home. Mommy always ensured that we were well-clothed and in school,” Donnisha shared. She said that amid financial challenges, their parents were relentless in helping them to realise their dreams.

“[I grew] up in a one-room structure until I was 13 years old. We had financial difficulties all the time, but that never stopped us from shining academically, or our parents from catering to our needs,” Donnisha told The Gleaner.

“They sacrificed a lot, and daddy was known to be a hustler in the streets of May Pen and Spanish Town selling fish and bammy, and pastries occasionally,” she said, adding that her parents were instrumental in instilling humility in them and encouraging their Christian faith.

Donnisha also highlighted her husband, Kevin, friends and colleagues as her support system.

The trio is confident that they can help many students to bring a positive attitude to the subject. Citing a quote from a mathematician and mentor, Donnisha said, “Mathematics is ridiculously beautiful.”