Allison Dillard ’03 Harnesses Her Math and English Degrees to Create Self-Confident Students

By Kendall Lowery ’22 

Portrait of Allison Dillard '03

During her time at Scripps College, Allison Dillard ’03 nurtured her quantitative and qualitative passions as a double major in English and math. Since graduating, she has authored five bestselling books dedicated to helping students tackle their math fears, with a sixth on the way. Her math books, which cover everything from statistics to study skills, provide students with strategies to help them succeed not just in math, but also in school and life. 

Although Dillard’s current work focuses on solving challenging problems, when it came to choosing a college, Scripps was the obvious solution from the first time she toured the campus.  

“Scripps was breathtaking, but I also really connected with the students,” she says. “They were smart, down to earth, curious, and lots of fun. It’s cheesy to say, but I found a family there, and made a bunch of amazing friends who I’m still in touch with to this day.” 

Once she matriculated, Dillard asked Scripps seniors: If you had to do college over again, what would you do differently? 

“Half of the seniors said, ‘I would have had more fun in college,’ and the other half said, ‘I wish I would have studied harder and focused more academically!’” she says. “Those responses defined my Scripps experience. I double-majored in English and math and was a couple of credits short of an economics minor, but I also focused a lot of effort on just having fun and enjoying college and meeting new people.” 

Luckily, studying hard and having a good time weren’t mutually exclusive. Once Dillard found her footing, she quickly felt at home in the Scripps math department. 

“I don’t know that I would have been a math major at a different college,” she says. “The Scripps math department was so positive and encouraging—I feel like I majored in math because of the people. My classes were challenging, fun, and taught by professors who love the subject. That love was contagious, and I’ve brought all those positive experiences with me as an educator and author.” 

Three professors in particular shaped her education: Christopher Towse, Herron Family Chair in Mathematics and professor of mathematics, Associate Professor of Mathematics Anie Chaderjian, and Claremont McKenna College Professor Emerita of Mathematics Janet M. Myhre. 

“Professor Towse was the reason I majored in math,” says Dillard. “He even appears in one of my books! I wrote a chapter called ‘Find Your Professor Towse,’ about finding an encouraging, inspiring, and helpful mentor. Professor Myhre got me interested in statistics, which led me to my master’s in math at Claremont Graduate University.”

After completing her post-graduate degree, Dillard launched her career as an educator, eventually landing at Irvine Valley College as an adjunct professor of mathematics. Despite this quantitative career path, her English degree reappeared in her life in an unexpected way.  

“One year I had health problems and had to take a year off of teaching in order to have surgery and chemotherapy,” says Dillard. “I wrote my first book during that year. All the foundations that I learned in my English classes at Scripps made writing that book possible. Decades later, it had such a positive impact on my math-focused career.” 

Her first book spurred an entirely new path as an educator. Dillard currently hosts the Allison Loves Math podcast, hosts free virtual conferences created to help math educators and parents achieve their goals, and continues to expand her bibliography. Her most recent book, The Crush Math Experiments, outlines 31 exercises that help students learn math more quickly, effectively, and confidently. 

In her books, Dillard advises her students to apply the same advice that guides her own writing practice: clarify your goals and break them down into approachable steps.  

“When I have a clear goal, whether it’s acing a Scripps math class or writing a book, I’m pretty good about working on that project a tiny bit each day,” says Dillard. “Aiming for and hitting flexible milestones is essential. For example, I wanted to have the top math podcast in the country, but my first goal was to hit the top 50, then the top 25, top 10, top five, then number one, which I just hit for the first time!” 

But whether she’s working with listeners, readers, other educators, or parents, she continues to share the advice she received in her original poll of Scripps seniors.  

“My college philosophy has carried through to my teaching,” says Dillard. “My advice? Challenge yourself, study hard, try hard, dream big—but make sure to enjoy the journey.”