Fellow Profile: Mitch Wilson
- G-TEAMS Cohort: 2012-13
- Graduate Program: Applied Mathematics
- Teacher Partners: Christine Mullahy-Koenig and Jennifer Thompson
- School: Flowing Wells Junior High
- Grade level: 8
- Topics: Algebra 1-2 (first year Algebra), Geometry
"Math is everywhere!"
Mitch Wilson is a graduate student in the Program in Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona. His research interests are in probability and statistics. He is interested in statistical inference, determining parameters based on known data. He aims to work on adapting algorithms to better estimate the time lapse of the spread of human DNA throughout the world, with implications in biology, anthropology, and culture.
FWJH (Flowing Wells Junior High) offers advanced students the ability to earn high school credit in Algebra 1-2 (first-year Algebra) and Geometry. Mitch has been assisting in the 8th grade Algebra 1-2 classes, as well as the 8th grade Geometry classes. His roles vary from instructor, to technical support, to mentor depending on the day’s lecture. He aims to help implement more inquiry-based learning into the classrooms, allowing students to be more interactive with their curricula. This can be a struggle for advanced middle school teachers, who must not only cover the high school workload, but also the material expected of students on standardized exams.
In addition, Mitch has been leading a weekly Math Club, called “Mathletes,” for students interested in learning more mathematics than what is taught in the regular curriculum. The club is supervised by Jennifer Thompson, and Mitch prepares most of the material. Participating students will be able to represent FWJH at regional competitions, such as MathCounts, and gain a broader appreciation of how different aspects of Algebra, Geometry, and other Mathematics connect with one another. The topics are aimed to be approachable by all students.
As an instructor for lower-leveled mathematics courses here at the University of Arizona, I have found it interesting to see where and why students make mistakes, both algebraic and conceptual. In working with 8th graders gaining exposure to these topics, it has become evident to me that cornerstones such as the distributive property or solving a system of equations require a lot of practice and guidance so students don’t just “think” they’re doing it right, but “know" they are. Many of the college freshmen I have worked with understand how to “do” mathematics to some level, but very few seem to “get” the broader picture. In working with students as they become familiar with this new way of thinking about mathematics, I am hoping that I can instill in them a sense of continued inquiry beyond “Did I get the answer right?” To date, my results have been mixed. Ultimately, it is up to the students themselves to dig deeper into the connections, but I am hoping I can nudge them in the right direction.