The Mathematics Association of America recently awarded Lee professors Dr. Laura Singletary and Dr. Debra Mimbs the Dolciani Mathematics Enrichment grant to finance the Mentoring Mathematicians in the Making program.
According to Mimbs and Singletary, the program will partner the top three mathematics students at Walker Valley and Bradley Central high schools with carefully selected undergrad mathematics students. The selected high school students will be those individuals who excelled at a recent math competition hosted by Lee University. Cleveland High chose not to participate in the math event.
Mimbs and Singletary brainstormed possible additions to the math competition.
“Having a mathematics competition is a great thing, and it is a great starting point, but we wanted to take that and make it something that would be a year-long program where [students] would have more interaction with Lee University and our students,” Mimbs said. “Where they would have more opportunities to see some interesting mathematics they don’t normally see in high school.”
Singletary said the two enjoyed dreaming up possible activities, services and programs.
The two threw back and forth several ideas in answer to the questions, “What could Lee University’s mathematics program offer to high school students for a year?”
A mentorship program appeared to be the best fit for the needs of the students.
The selected students will each be matched up with a Lee University mathematics undergrad in August. Each team will communicate at least once a week either in person or via the phone or social media. Both Singletary and Mimbs agreed in-person sessions would be best.
The top six high school students will be invited to join the program in August.
Each weekly session will find the high school student presented with problems created by Mimbs and Singletary. These problems will allow them to explore discrete mathematics, probability theory, number theory, combinatorics, non-Euclidean geometry and cryptography mathematics.
These problems will be very creative and ones they may not have been introduced to in their high school courses. The mentors will aid the high school students in tackling the problems.
“Our goal is to really utilize the mathematics they have learned through high school,” Mimbs said. “A lot of time when you are learning a tool to use mathematically, you don’t clearly see its application and you don’t see how interesting it can be.”
Continued Mimbs, “If you are in a geometry class, for instance, your focus in that class is to learn the tools of geometry and how to utilize geometry. There is much less emphasis on calculus or algebra or discrete math.”
Students will also engage in two additional mathematics-centered events hosted by Lee in the fall and spring semesters.
The fall will find each of the mentees and their mentors invited to a formal dinner with a key note speaker who will give a mathematics talk. Lee math faculty will also be present at the dinner. In addition, a day will be set aside for local students to visit the college for a mathematics day. The students will have an opportunity to explore various math subjects they may have not been introduced to in their schools.
“In the spring, the mentorship pairs will be focusing on not just individual problems, but when they meet in their mentorship pairs, they will be working on a research project of sorts,” Singletary explained. “These students will actually be presenting at our spring symposium we have every year.
“We will have these six high school students along with their mentors presenting research from the semester alongside college students.”
There will also be a pizza problem-solving meeting. It will be an opportunity for students to relax and talk about what they have learned. Another high school mathematics competition hosted by Lee will once again take place during the spring semester.
Mimbs thanked the Lee faculty for their willingness to help in the competition. She said it would not have been possible without everyone of the faculty members and the 20 students who volunteered.
Added Singletary, “One of our core values at Lee is service. This was a beautiful way for us to not just work with the community, but have our undergrad to serve the community as well and use their mathematics and their gifts to serve others and enrich their lives.”