I am excited to announce a new award, the Upper School Mathematics Students of the Trimester!
You can watch a video of the presentation right here.
Each math faculty member was free to choose whichever student of theirs they thought best exemplified what they are looking for in a model mathematics student. The official description of the award is as follows:
“Awarded to students who exemplify the math department’s core values of competence, confidence, and perseverance while helping their peers realize the relevance and importance of an exceptional mathematical education both for its beauty and for its practical application.”
The following students have been recognized as the Upper School Mathematics Students of the Trimester for Fall 2015.
Please join me in congratulating these outstanding mathematics students!
Eric Chen – Eric began the trimester with trepidation. He had not been in an honors level math course until this fall and knew that he would be faced with a new level of mathematical thinking, but he was determined to make it work. He took advantage of all of his resources including the internet, extra help, and peer support from tutors in the Math Resource Center. Through his unending effort and focus, Eric had a terrifically successful trimester in this course and is set to take on the next mathematical challenge that comes his way!
Andrew Dowd – I did not pick Andrew for his innate mathematics ability. He would be the first to tell you he struggled quite a bit with trigonometry last fall. Nevertheless, because of his work ethic and determination he managed to learn a lot of mathematics and complete the course successfully. His understanding of algebra, geometry, and arithmetic all improved dramatically last term, and I was so pleased to see his growth both as a student and as a mathematician.
Simon Kim – Simon has been a dedicated and focused student all trimester. He is inquisitive and willing to take risks in his work. He has contributed to the class on many levels: volunteering answers, asking questions and helping his classmates.
Oliver Lawrence – Oliver is a leader in the classroom. I can always count on him to be one of the first students to answer a question. He comes to class prepared each and every day with his homework completed and with questions that benefit everyone in the class. I am looking forward to working with him for the remainder of the year.
Matthew Nguyen – As the top student in the Engineering & Robotics I class in trimester 1, Matthew brought his considerable talents in mathematics, programming and logic to every assignment he completed. His code was extremely well thought-out and was always impeccably commented. His robot, and it controlling computer program, garnered one of the top scores in our final “Labyrinth Challenge”. He is becoming a most promising computer scientist!
Khanh Pham – Khanh’s attention, diligence, thoughtfulness, humor, and creativity in Video Game Programming made him a joy to have in class, a resource to his peers, and a very successful programmer.
Sara Renkert – Sara has had a tremendous first trimester at Williston. Always attentive in class, Sara asks insightful questions and volunteers answers daily. She brings a positive energy to class each day and she challenges herself to be her very best. Sara is a regular at extra help where she puts the finishing touches on her test and quiz preparation. Her unwavering effort has earned her the honor of being recognized as a Williston math student of the trimester. Congratulations Sara!
Sophia Schaefer – Sophia is a very hard working an intelligent math student. She grasps difficult concepts very quickly and is able to apply them well. She is always very diligent, and she is consistently engaged in our class-room discussions.
Toula Sierros – Toula has worked hard everyday in class and on her homework. She participates both by helping others and by asking questions. She learns from her mistakes on quizzes and homework and keeps a positive attitude in her learning.
Andrew Spiegel – Andrew is a model student in algebra II. His hard work inside and outside of class is rewarded through is hard grades and strong comprehension of the material. Andrew regularly volunteers to answer difficult questions in class, and I can always rely on his to demonstrate and explain a solution to the rest of the class. His notes and homework are thorough and reflect a wonderful attention to detail as well as a sequential and easy to follow thought-process.
Cameron Stanley – Cameron has been an active member of our class since the beginning of the year. Although she relies on a strong math background, she is driven to improve and is very persistent in her efforts to understand new ideas. She takes responsible risks in class by asking questions frequently and is eager and willing to help classmates understand concepts.
Maggie White – Maggie drives class. I can count on her to push us through challenging material by making great observations, as well as to lead small groups with compassion and humility. Maggie is wonderfully focused in class, but never overly serious. She’s the kind of student that makes any group better. I very much hope that she’ll go into teaching one day!
Last year when I began teaching my dream class, Video Game Programming & Design, my goal was not only to teach a lot about programming, but to also allow students’ creativity and enthusiasm for game play to drive much of their learning. The way I’ve chosen to accomplish this goal is to follow a formula for each unit in the class. We start with instructions for making a new game, following them step by step and pausing along the way to discuss new concepts and assess our understanding.
Once we’ve broken, fixed, and perfected the prescribed game, the (virtual) walls come down and I assign students “mods,” or modifications, of the game. The first time I assign a mod the students tend to dream *very* big, way bigger than two weeks’ worth of class will enable them to achieve. While this first smack against the reality of being a newbie stings, it generates the swell of motivation that propels us through the rest of the term. When I read the proposals my students submit for the second, third, and even fourth mod of the term, I see them dial their creativity back markedly as they self-edit based on their understanding of their understanding. I see humble restraint replace naïve enthusiasm, and while I appreciate this appropriate academic response, it totally bums me out.
Sometime towards the end of the term, however, as the students’ project folders get fuller and skill sets widen, as confidence is built based on successful programming challenges, and as students look at old-style arcade games and exclaim, “I could totally make that!” I grow gleeful as I anticipate students’ proposals for their final mod project. I keep the requirements for the project modest and attainable, but encourage as much creativity as each student can muster. I raise the stakes by requiring each student to present their work to the class during our final meeting, including a live play-test by a classmate. How could you phone it in with your game-designer street cred on the line? You can’t. So the students rise to the challenge. They create new graphics, design new levels, and test out new code they haven’t learned yet. They leaf through chapters in the book that aren’t covered in the class. They read the documentation. They read the documentation!! They Go. For. It.
The drafts of each students’ final mod proposals are rolling in to the open drop box on my learning management system, right now, as I type this. On Thursday, when the proposals are due, I’ll open the class website and stare for a moment at the little green flags that indicate a submission lined up in the gradebook like a nerdy advent calendar. I’ll click each little box of wonder and possibility, savoring the contents of each before I move on to the next, and reacquaint myself with those big-dreamers as I count down to the big day.