In an effort to broaden graduates’ mathematical toolkit and address gender equity in STEM education, Rob Newton has led the implementation of Python projects across his school’s entire ninth-grade math courses. Now every student in the ninth grade completes three Python projects that introduce programming and integrate them with the ideas developed in class.
Increasingly, high schools are offering computer science at a variety of levels, from single programming courses to four-year programs that cover everything from logic to 3D printing and laser cutting to writing apps. However, most of these programs are self-selective, and the current representation in the field leads to less diversity. By exposing every student to programming and giving them more of a sense of what programming entails through this program, it is the school’s hope that more students will elect to study computer science.
While Rob—a pure mathematician—thinks that mathematics is beautiful and interesting enough on it’s own and that it need not be sullied with applications, he understands that he would do his students a disservice if he only taught them abstract mathematics. To that end, the single most significant application of mathematics right now is in computer programming. Rob aims for these notebooks to help every math student learn how they can take mathematical ideas, translate those ideas into executable code, and then run that code to answer questions or be used a small part in answering a bigger question.
This program will be expanded to the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade courses as well. Next year, Rob will be using Jupyter notebooks for a 10th-grade math class that will introduce NumPy and linear algebra and use matplotlib to do some basic visualizations.
Rob Newton is a mathematics instructor at the Trinity School, where each year he teaches a course on advanced topics that lie beyond a traditional high school curriculum. Recent courses have included algebraic number theory, combinatorics, linear algebra, group theory, and cryptography, each with a significant coding component. Rob grew up in a military family, moving from California to Texas to Germany to New York during his childhood. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SUNY Potsdam and a PhD from the University of Florida, where his research analyzed a topological invariant that nobody can pronounce (and where he took advantage of the beautiful weather and beaches). Rob is an avid homebrewer and loves fruity herbal tea—experience he used as the adviser of the tea club at Trinity.
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