Math lovers find home on campus

By Alex Bonus |



Photo by Phillip C Sunkel IV

Flagler’s addition of a math minor this semester has come as a welcome surprise for students like sophomore Zack Brenneman, who sees hours of math homework as a fun pastime.

“I have friends in the writing lab that, in their free time, will listen to music and write papers,” Brenneman said. “Well, in my free time I’ll go on the internet and do math problems.”

Though Brenneman is sometimes embarrassed by his often misunderstood fascination, he makes up an interesting minority at a school not known for producing passionate mathematicians.

“When I first started here [last fall], all I heard were people complaining about math classes and homework,” he said.

But after a few weeks in class, Brenneman realized he was not alone in his secret affair with the subject.

“I started coming after class to work on problems, and [Assistant Professor of Mathematics Michael Insalaca] kind of became my mentor,” Brenneman said. “And he eventually told me about the possibility of the school adding a math minor by my sophomore year and said that it would be a good choice.”

Brenneman continued taking math courses throughout his freshman year, hoping that the credits would count toward the minor after its approval. During that time, he met a handful of other students who shared his love of the subject.

“The classes had small groups and we’re all friends,” he said. “It’s just really enjoyable.”

According to Insalaca, many groups have pushed for the addition of a math minor for years. Representatives from both the Education and Business departments felt the minor would complement their majors.

“In addition, several students throughout the years have asked for more challenging mathematics courses than the ones we currently offer,” Insalaca said. “In the past, students did these higher level courses as directed studies.”

The minor includes five courses — Calculus I, Calculus II, Statistics, Linear Algebra and Discrete Mathematics. However, Calculus I and Statistics both satisfy general education requirements in math, so students could theoretically complete the minor with only three extra courses.

Insalaca said this format mirrors similar minors at other schools, which typically require five or six classes. He also said the coursework can prepare education majors to pass state exams and earn teaching endorsements in mathematics.

“By passing this test, a student that graduates with a major in any area can receive a statement of eligibility to apply for a high school or middle school mathematics teaching position in Florida,” he said.

For Brenneman, the minor will complement his elementary education major and help him fulfill his dream of teaching high school math.

However, Insalaca said that the minor can benefit students of all majors — from boosting their resume to helping them prepare for the Graduate Record Examinations.

“The courses are typically small so that students can receive more individualized attention,” he said. “Furthermore, a mathematics minor on a transcript will look attractive to many employers that want to hire someone with a strong ability to solve problems.”

Junior business major Dakota Veltri — who plans to attend culinary school after graduation — said the math minor could help him toward his goal of one day opening up a restaurant.

“Cooking is all math and chemistry,” he said. “It’s about proper measurements and sizes and proportions.”

However, Veltri worries he will not have time to finish the minor.

“It doesn’t look like the scheduling of the classes will work out with my schedule,” he said.

Veltri heard that the minor classes will only be offered one per semester. However, Insalaca said this is not true. Although only Calculus II will be offered next semester, beginning Fall 2012, the department plans to offer at least one calculus course and an upper-division math course per semester.

“It is still possible for a junior to complete the minor,” he said.

Insalaca encourages interested students to inquire about the minor.

Brenneman agrees, but warns that students should really consider their investment in the subject before deciding to do it.

“It really depends on whether or not you like math,” he said. “If you’re looking at a problem and don’t know how to do it, then the math people won’t just give up — they’ll be interested in how to solve it and spend time doing it. That’s what separates them.”

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