By Josh Raymer
In a typical high school math class, three weeks of instruction would likely move students through one chapter of material, perhaps two. Last year at VAMPY, Ethan Abate covered four courses worth of material in that same time frame – Calculus I, Calculus II, Multi-Variable, and Complex Analysis. In addition to challenging himself, Ethan reaped the benefits of his work back at his home high school.
After talking with his counselor, Ethan began taking online math classes offered through Johns Hopkins University in place of the Calculus BC class at his school. As long as the university he ultimately attends accepts them, those classes will count as college credit. Ethan will begin his junior year at The Gatton Academy on WKU’s campus this fall, and when he does, he hopes to have Abstract Algebra and Number Theory under his belt after studying the high-level math courses this summer at VAMPY.
With the learning ceiling removed, Ethan has thrived in the VAMPY Math classroom and opened up a world of possibilities for himself. “The sky’s the limit,” he revealed. “I can do as much as I’m able to without any kind of restriction. I work at my own pace and get help when I need it. That sets VAMPY apart from anything else.”
Jane Brantley teaches one of the three math sections at VAMPY and explained that Ethan’s story shows what’s possible when schools work with gifted students to meet their academic needs. “If students are looking to get credit, we urge them to talk to their guidance counselors,” Jane said. “Sometimes that goes to the principal or even the school board. Some schools say yes but want them to take a final exam to prove they’ve retained the material. Some schools give them the credit and some say ‘no way.’ That’s a shame when you know these kids have pulled so much out of this course and that they’ve retained it because they have to sit through it again.”
Matthew Broadbent is another success story for VAMPY Math translating to credit at the high school level. He finished Geometry in a week and a half at VAMPY last year and received credit for the class at his school. This kind of accelerated learning is possible when VAMPY math teachers hand students a textbook and say, as Jane puts it, “read, figure it out, ask us questions, and go.” Some students might balk at the idea of such a non-traditional classroom setup. Not Matthew: “I’m a fast-paced learner,” he admitted. “I don’t like people going over stuff several times if I get it.”
The VAMPY Math classroom is such a great incubator for learning that Karthik Boyareddygari couldn’t stay away. For working through Algebra I, Calculus I, and the majority of Calculus II during his time at VAMPY, Karthik received credit for Algebra I and Calculus II at his school. His mother believed he’d gotten everything he could from VAMPY Math at that point, so Karthik decided to volunteer in the class this summer in order help others and continue working on his own math. On the docket for these three weeks is Advanced Calculus, with Linear Algebra up next.
Karthik said he appreciated the self-paced learning at VAMPY and also the removal of test anxiety that is common in high school: “If you feel like you’re ready, you can take the test,” he said. “If you didn’t know something, you can simply retake the test, which you can’t always do in high school.”
Jane explained that even if they can’t receive credit, some campers take VAMPY Math to lighten the workload in their high school math classes because they’re busy with sports or band. Students like Ethan have their sights set on attending The Gatton Academy and want to prepare themselves for the rigors of taking college-level classes. Others still want to improve their ACT scores or be better prepared for high school math.
No matter the reasoning, those who dive into the challenge of VAMPY Math find its benefits far-reaching. Ethan said he sees a future for himself in the math field. “I’d ideally like to get my doctorate in math and become a professor,” he said. “I don’t know what college yet, but that’s my end goal.”
Matthew was grateful for the chance to study a subject he loved in the way he wanted to study it, and he understood how lucky that made him. “It’s incredible,” he said. “Not everybody gets this opportunity.”