December 01, 2011

By The Numbers

At the age of twelve, when most kids were struggling with basic algebra and geometry, Amanda Hattaway was teaching herself calculus. With both of her parents in the teaching profession, Hattaway discovered her love of math, sciences, and education through her parents’ books. “Learning the math on my own, I had time and wasn’t being pressured, so it was like a puzzle for me.”

Sixteen years later, her curiosity and love of math haven’t faded. In addition to her job at Wentworth as department chair for applied math and sciences, Hattaway spends her Sundays teaching middle school-aged students at the Metro West School of Massachusetts in Framingham. She says these students give her exposure to teaching at a different level. “It’s great to be with the younger students, eager to run to the blackboard since college students don’t always run to do this,” she laughs.

Although Hattaway originally thought she wanted to be a doctor, her queasy stomach and dislike of the high-stress environment surrounding the medical profession derailed her. She knew she still wanted to pursue math and always admired her parents’ teaching careers, so she got her undergraduate, master’s, and PhD in math with the intent of becoming a professor. She has actually combined her love of medicine and math by studying bioinformatics and mathematical biology. The new three-year bachelor’s degree program in applied math and sciences at Wentworth, which Hattaway and the applied mathematics faculty have been instrumental in instituting, will allow students to earn a degree that will enable them to pursue a wide range of interesting and impactful careers. “You can solve problems, like make Google run faster, predict that there might be a hurricane in Boston in two years, predict the financial stock market, or help to prevent the collapse of the financial market,” says Hattaway.

Along with the new major, new programs and initiatives on campus are being implemented to help improve math education at Wentworth. The applied math and sciences department is implementing a math competition, classes that make the transition from engineering technology to engineering easier, and courses that will extend over winter break. Though she tries to spend her free time with friends and family, Hattaway has been devoting her free time to co-teaching a course that helps struggling students pass calculus. “I’m a firm believer that anyone can do math as long as he or she is willing to work hard,” says Hattaway—and she’ll do anything she can to help them succeed.

After eight years of teaching, the best things about her job, says Hattaway, are the interactions with other faculty and the way students challenge her. “The other day a student asked me why an answer was the way it was, and I didn’t know. We figured it out together.”

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