Awtrey receives grant from Mathematical Association of America

The funding will assist A.L. Hook Associate Professor Chad Awtrey and Williams High School math teachers Robin French '15 and Dee Sizemore in providing enrichment activities for talented high school students.

A.L. Hook Associate Professor Chad Awtrey has received funding from the Mathematical Association of America to partner with Williams High School math teachers Robin French ’15 and Dee Sizemore to provide enrichment activities for talented high school students.

The $4,770 grant, which is funded through the association’s Dolciani Mathematics Enrichment Grant program, seeks to engage a diverse population of Williams High School students in three types of mathematical enrichment activities during the 2017-2018 academic year for the purpose of inspiring the students to take more mathematics classes in their secondary and post-secondary careers.

The three activities are:

  1. Preparing for and participating in two high school mathematics contests.
  2. Researching alongside Elon university undergraduate mathematics majors an unsolved mathematics problem and disseminating results in the form of conference posters/presentations and at least one submission for publication.
  3. Attending a monthly speaker series hosted at Elon where speakers from academia, business, industry, and government discuss aspects of their careers that have the potential to inspire students to pursue a STEM major at the university level.

The collaboration between Elon and Williams High School is natural. Indeed, the two institutions are located approximately four miles apart. Furthermore, Awtrey was the research mentor for French when she was an undergraduate mathematics major at Elon. Williams is also well-suited for engaging participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds: of the 1,157 students from the 2016-2017 academic year, 34 percent are African American, 22 percent are Hispanic and 50 percent are female.

The Awtrey, French and Sizemore hope to achieve the following goals.

For the mathematics contest, their goal is that at least 12 students will participate in two high school mathematics tests next year, effectively doubling the participation. Biweeky training sessions held by French and Sizemore will help achieve this goal.

For research and dissemination, three to six students will be identified to conduct research with Awtrey and his Elon undergraduate research team. Each participant will be expected to prepare a poster or 10-minute oral presentation based on their results and deliver the presentation to multiple audiences.  

In particular, the project investigators hope the students will present at Williams High School, at Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum and at a regional conference at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (Awtrey serves as one of the main organizers of this conference).  

All students involved will also contribute to writing a paper suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed mathematics research journal. Awtrey will help students meet these goals. He has a track record of success as a mentor, having received mentoring/teaching awards from the Council on Undergraduate Research and the Southeastern Section of the MAA. Also, his undergraduate research students at Elon have submitted/published 17 papers, delivered 55 presentations at national/regional conferences, and received awards for best presentations at national and regional conferences.

For the speaker series, the goal is that students will recognize the wide variety of careers available to collegiate STEM graduates and be excited about the role mathematics plays in solving problems that arise in both academic research and business/industrial settings.  Awtrey has worked with Elon’s chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon (the national math honor society) to begin a speaker series at Elon in fall 2013. To date, the speaker series has brought a total of 29 speakers to Elon from a variety of backgrounds.  

Previous speakers have come from institutions such as Davidson College, Wake Forest University, Clemson University, Brigham Young University, Howard University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Speakers have come from businesses such as the National Security Agency and RTI International.  The goal for next year is to have eight speakers and to include more speakers from business, industry and government.