BUFFALO, N.Y. -- David Wang was underachieving in math class
because he was too smart. The seventh grader at Transit Middle
School simply lost interest in the subject. What he needed was a
His father decided to reignite his son's curiosity in math by
enrolling him in the Gifted Math Program (GMP), an after-school,
advanced mathematics program for middle and high school students at
the University at Buffalo.
Wang soon became one of the GMP's most improved students,
soaring past four levels of high school material to college level
math. He is now a freshman at Williamsville East High School, and
is enrolled in Calculus III in the GMP.
UB's Gifted Math Program, administered through UB's Graduate
School of Education, encounters students like Wang every year, and
has made it its mission to provide gifted children with advanced
coursework they would not see in their regular schools.
"If you think about the normal curve, there are kids down at the
lower end of the curve who get a lot of extra help at schools,"
says Anne Izydorczak, GMP administrator. "But at the upper end of
the curve, you've got kids who really need something different that
the schools don't have the resources to provide. And that's what
we're here for."
The program, founded in 1979 by Gerald Rising, Distinguished
Teaching Professor Emeritus in the UB Department of Learning and
Instruction, and Betty Krist, professor emerita of mathematics at
Buffalo State College, enrolls approximately 250 students from
secondary schools in Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties.
Each year, the Gifted Math Program admits a class of 60 students
nominated for entry by parents or teachers. Applicants undergo
interviews and tests, which includes the math section of the
Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.
The program offers advanced mathematics courses twice a week
during the academic year, which may replace math courses in the
students' home schools. Those in grades seven through 10 study an
accelerated curriculum, while 11th and 12th graders take
university-level courses in calculus and linear algebra. Students
have the opportunity to earn up to 22 college credit hours through
Time management is an essential part of the program, as many
students juggle regular school work, sports and other
extracurricular activities with GMP classes and homework. But
despite their hectic schedules, students still arrive to class
eager to learn.
"They've spent an entire day in their regular middle schools and
then come here for two and a half more hours of just mathematics,
and nonetheless they're lively and excited about it," says Harry
O'Malley, teacher at Casey Middle School and GMP associate
"I get comments from parents, genuinely thanking me because
their student is getting in their car all hyped up about things
that were going on in the classroom. It really does seem to tap
into the passion they have for the subject."
What keeps the students interested may be the Gifted Math
Program's unusual approach to teaching. In many of the classes,
instead of giving their students homework on what they learned in
class, they use the work to introduce the kids to new concepts.
Students are expected to investigate problems they have never seen
before and develop methods to solve them, says O'Malley.
Program graduates take these problem-solving skills with them to
their future schools, some of which include Harvard, Yale and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Julie Sarama, GMP director, tells her students, "One day when
you're at Harvard and you're not the smartest person around, you're
going to be okay with that because you've felt that before. You're
around a lot of smart kids and you're going to be challenged."
"I truly believe that being in gifted math is going to lead to
their success in life."
Anna Blatz, a graduate of the GMP class of 2012 and freshman at
MIT, credits the program for her early success in college. She was
one of a few freshmen who found their introductory math courses
"I'm studying mathematics in college and things are coming back
up that I learned in seventh grade, which is pretty funny at MIT,"
Blatz took away more from the GMP than an improved knack for
numbers. The program also introduced her to new cultures. Unlike
her regular school, Kenmore West High School, the GMP is diverse
and enrolls students from several different countries and
ethnicities. Blatz developed friendships with students from
Columbia, Japan and China that remain strong to this day.
"Joining the Gifted Math Program was the best decision I ever
made. It had a huge influence on my life. I do not think I would be
where I am today without it," says Blatz.
"I made great friends, I learned how to be a hard worker and I
learned a lot of math."
The application deadline for the class of 2014 is Jan. 23. For
more information about the program, call Anne Izydorczak at
645-4467 or visit http://giftedmath.buffalo.edu/.