By Adrian Lin ’22
Most notable of all, however, was the community I found. I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made through Math Club and am so grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together.
With a wide variety of course options, IP’s (independent projects), clubs, prizes, and competitions, Andover’s math program offers many pathways for student learning and mathematical training. For many recent alums, the Andover Math Department has influenced their decision making and instilled a love of math. I reached out to Tyler Shen ’17, Jenny Huang ’16, and Philip Lamkin ’17, alumni who were strongly involved in the Andover Math program offerings. I asked them to look back on their experiences while at Andover. Here is what they had to say.
Tyler Shen ’17: Tyler participated in the Andover Math Club for his four years at Andover. In his senior year, he was one of the four coheads of the Math Club. In his freshman year, Tyler placed into Math 595, and his math path continued from there. He took Math 650 and a few math seminars on differential equations and abstract algebra. He took on the challenge of doing his own independent projects on topics such as real analysis and differential geometry. In addition to his extended math course path, Tyler participated in many math prize examinations.
Jenny Huang ’16: Jenny had been a part of Math Club since her freshman year and became one of the heads in her senior year. Jenny participated in numerous contests including NEML, HMMT, AMC, and ARML. She also received the Andover Math Department Maynard Prize for her achievement in calculus in her lower year.
Philip Lamkin ’17: Philip was a member of the Math Club for his four years at Andover and served as its head in his senior year. He won awards from the Math Department and participated in many math competitions including the NEML, AMC 10/12, AIME, USAMO, COMC, and ARML. In his time at Andover, Philip took many math courses which included the standard accelerated track, various 630 courses, and 4 IP’s in his senior year.
How has the Andover math curriculum/events/clubs affected your life after Andover?
Tyler: The flexibility that Andover granted me was unparalleled. It offered a supportive environment in which my peers and I were able to explore our mathematical interests under the guidance of incredibly smart teachers. This was especially true for seminar and independent projects. As far as I know, teachers are not responsible for committing to an independent project, which can sometimes cover very dense, collegiate level material. However, many teachers were still willing to make that sacrifice for me and my friends, and still come to weekly meetings excited about discussing problems. That was special.
Jenny: I still cherish my memories from being involved in Math at Andover. The curriculum was well-taught and the topics I learned in my Independent Projects with math department faculty (Contest Writing, Number Theory) have shaped my interests in college, where I am studying Computer Science and Applied Math. Most notable of all, however, was the community I found. I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made through Math Club and am so grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together.
Philip: The most obvious way that the Andover math department affected my life after Andover was in how much math I was able to do in high school. I finished multivariable calculus and linear algebra, and as a result was able to place into high-level courses to start in college. This set me on track to do the honors major here, which will get me a masters’ degree at the end of my four years. It also, in a softer sense, simply kept me loving math which helped my decision to major in pure math.
What are some things you find special about the Andover math program?
Tyler: The Andover math program was an absolute dream for me. When I was deciding between Andover and Exeter, the quality of the math program was one of the most important factors, and while Exeter has had a strong history of producing USA IMO competitors, there was something unique at Andover that I thought eclipsed everything I had seen at Exeter. My first experience of math at Andover was during revisit day, when I sat in on Mr. Barry’s math class. The way he talked about math really sparked an interest in me, and made me excited to start my journey at Andover. However, I think what is most amazing about math at Andover is definitely the faculty. All the teachers I have had in the math department. Mr. Doba, Mr. Barry, Dr. Schneider, Dr. Knudson, Dr. McHugh, and the many others I have been honored to meet, were all incredibly smart and positive influences during my time at Andover, extending far beyond just math. To their guidance and patience, I am forever grateful.
Jenny: Andover math gives you both the resources to explore your interests and to find a community you can work with and learn from. It’s very special to find such an amazing group of people who are all excited and passionate to learn about math.
Philip: Andover’s math program is unique in its range of offerings, at least at somewhat higher levels. The rotating math 630 courses are great for kids who finish the standard track or are looking to take extra math courses – I took five of them over my time at Andover, the first one freshman spring. The rotating topics make for a really varied offering. Also, at least when I was at Andover, the winter term math 630 was always designed to be accessible to students who hadn’t yet taken calculus. This is a great opportunity for kids who are passionate about math but didn’t necessarily have the background coming in to high school, to explore new avenues of math.
What do you wish for current students to most gain from their math education?
Tyler: I hope current students learn to take advantage of the opportunities to challenge themselves in math, whether it means taking that difficult math seminar or spending more time with a teacher outside of class. Andover’s math program has grown tremendously since I first arrived, and has been improving every year from what I have heard. Learning how to think abstractly and being able to organize those ideas in the form of a concrete solution or proof is an invaluable skill.
Jenny: I hope students can take advantage of the opportunity to explore math interests outside the standard curriculum with the guidance of a math department faculty member through an Independent Project. Once you can dive deeply into a topic with an awesome advisor, math will become even more enjoyable.
Philip: A few things – first, just general critical thinking and analysis skills. That’s what’s most important to the average person from their math classes. For all the jokes and disparaging comments, most people are never going to touch an integral or derivative once they graduate college. But the thinking skills it builds are important. Also, at a potentially smaller group is a love of math. Like what I mentioned about the math 630 courses, Andover offers a lot of options to engage in math outside the standard track, and that gives a lot of opportunities to see a different side of math.
In what way do you think math is crucial in everyday life in general?
Tyler: On a philosophical level, math is crucial to everyday life because it offers an unbiased perspective of the world. There is always a right answer, yet many different ways to reach that right answer. Without math, we would not have the foundations upon which almost all the world’s applications and innovations are built. On a practical level, math helps us make every day decisions as simple as which groceries to buy.
Philip: I think in the average person’s life, it’s mainly useful in the general skill sets it teaches rather than specifics. It teaches you how to think about problems, and how to use information you have to try to solve a potentially unknown problem.