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Georgia Tech helps Hall deliver advanced math
West Hall High School junior Leah Granger, 16, will be taking Calculus II and Calculus III classes through Georgia Institute of Technology this year as part of a distance learning program. Granger will attend the classes via video conferencing from West Hall. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Leah Granger could earn four college math credits before she graduates high school.

As a sophomore last year, she took a math class many high schools offer to seniors — Advanced Placement calculus. As a senior, she’ll take an International Baccalaureate math studies course.

But this year, she has nowhere to go but college. Hall County Schools teamed with the Georgia Institute of Technology to offer Calculus II and Calculus III classes via video conference.

Granger, who took AP calculus online, said she is excited for a change in environment. She’ll sit in a classroom at West Hall High School each day and watch a Georgia Tech instructor during the actual class period on the Atlanta campus. The professor will be able to see her, too, and Granger can ask questions.

“It’s a great opportunity to go further and enjoy learning math,” she said. “This is a style I’m familiar with because of the online AP calculus class, but it’ll be different because it’ll be an actual class. I’m looking forward to having that classroom setting.”

Granger heard about the distance learning program as a freshman because schools in Forsyth, Gwinnett, Fulton and Cobb counties are part of the partnership. She made it a goal to pass the AP calculus test and take the SAT early, earning higher than the 1300 minimum score required to enroll.

“I was able to take Algebra I in seventh grade, which is extra early, geometry in eighth grade and two math classes freshman year,” she said. “I just love math and wanted to take as many as I could.”

Georgia Tech classes start Aug. 23. Granger will use her math period to be part of the lecture class and her elective period to work on the homework.

Ecke said a few more students could follow in Granger’s shoes next year. With about 15 students taking IB math classes this fall, she expects five to 10 students will try the Georgia Tech courses.

Granger, who wants to study engineering at Georgia Tech, Mercer University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will also earn math credit through the International Baccalaureate program, which she enters next fall as a senior.

“When we decided to pursue this program, it was Leah I was thinking of,” said Laurie Ecke, IB coordinator for West Hall who also helped set up the Georgia Tech partnership. “I knew the math track she was on and saw we would run out of classes. Even the IB math wouldn’t be enough.”

The advanced IB math studies class is one few students in the state ever reach and for which coursework is not yet determined.
“We’ll try to hook her in with other students around the state, maybe create a Facebook group for study sessions or to keep in touch,” Ecke said. “We’re forging new ground with that course and hope to create a network of math scholars around the state.”
Granger first discovered her love for math in sixth grade, when her math teacher gave the students a problem and asked them to look for patterns and a formula.

“I worked so hard on that problem,” Granger said. “It was cool to find a formula and see how the problem fit.”

Word problems appeal to her the most, and AP calculus showed her how advanced math applies to the real world.

“I enjoyed the problems that dealt with physics, chemistry and economics because I could see how calculus is used all over,” she said. “I had taken some of those courses already, so I saw the problems in a new way and how calculus could help me to go even farther.”

For Granger, it’s all about problem solving.

“Instead of answering a question, you’re solving a problem,” she said. “You’re looking at the process and putting thought into it, looking at the problem from different directions.”