Every Tuesday, Upper School Mathematics Teacher Matt Enlow gathers up a handful of whiteboard markers and makes his way to Conference Room B during second lunch. There, he’s creating a place where students can make mistakes and step out of their comfort zone—or as he so aptly puts it in advertisements for the gathering: “Come be wrong with us.” Welcome to iAMCapable.
The group gets its name from the annual math exam: the American Mathematics Competition or AMC, which is an optional test offered to interested Dana students looking to push the boundaries of their math learning. But beyond preparing themselves to take the exam in February, the weekly gathering is a place where students can give math a try. “It's been my experience that, without the pressure of grades looming over their heads, students are more willing to take on challenges,” Enlow said.
While he has a steady rotation of participants already, as a way to encourage more students to attend, Enlow has enlisted the help of non-STEM faculty and staff members to join the group as special guests. He’s gotten everyone from house directors and librarians to academic office staff, and his shared Google Sheet shows spots filled through December 18.
We caught up with Enlow over email to learn more about the gathering that’s been going strong since early November.
How did you come up with the idea for this club?
I wanted students to have an opportunity to try their hand at some interesting math problems outside of the context of the classroom. I wanted this to be a zero-pressure safe space for students to experience "productive struggle."
What does a typical Tuesday session look like?
I bring copies of past AMC tests and a bunch of whiteboard markers to each session. Students just come in, grab a packet and a marker, look for a problem that they think they can at least make some headway on, and find some whiteboard space to work it out. Some work with a friend or two, others work alone. I will roam around and ask questions, or offer "help" when needed (which also just looks like asking questions). I have the answer keys, too, so when students get an answer, they can check it with me. Students do as few or as many as they like. They often ask to take the packet with them when they leave!
What's been your favorite part?
Honestly, it's been having the faculty and staff guest appearances. I think it's so important to see adults who are not math/science teachers choosing to challenge themselves, even—or especially—when their mathematical self-confidence is relatively low. So far, they have all come away from their visit saying that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves!