Our math course is not like a math course you will see at a traditional school. Our course is called "Math Modeling". What this means is that there is no specific area that we will be covering through a curriculum such as pre-calculus. Instead we learn topics throughout their application in a wide variety of problem sets and group projects. By doing this, we never have to ask “why am I learning this?” because we can see how to apply each concept immediately as we learn it. Another unique aspect of Math Modeling is how we learn. Instead of having typical lessons, we are simply given problems that we have not yet learned how to solve and we use the internet and our fellow students to develop our own problem solving strategies that work for each problem.
Earlier this year, me and 3 other students, Alex C., Kyle, and Joseph, participated in the High school Mathematical Contest in Modeling (HiMCM). This 48 hour contest poses students with a very broad question for which the students must then research, develop, and create a write-up to answer. This year, the topic that our group chose was modeling the population of bees and their pollination effectiveness in an area over time given variables such as flower density, pollen protein content, and mortality rate. This contest was some of the most fun I have had this year, even though it came at the cost of a good night’s sleep. After working through the two days, we finally were able to create an equation to model the population of a newly created beehive and how the various variables could impact the long-term health of the hive.
To me, the Epsilon School group presentation showed best how we are able to do application-based problems in Math Modeling. In this problem, we were presented with a school district that was adding a new wing to its high school, and therefore expecting an influx of new students. Thus, we were tasked with figuring out in which departments we needed to hire new teachers. This project accomplished two things. First, we were able to work together in a group with outer people in our class and brainstorm to come up with a solution together, improving each of our communication skills. Second, we were all able to increase our proficiency using spreadsheets, a skill that is often overlooked. By doing this project, we not only learned about how to utilize math to optimize a situation, but also leaned valuable soft skills that we can carry into the future.