Teacher Feature: Abby Brown

For high school students disoriented by a constant haze of stress and anxiety, math is often just another class to get through, little more than homework, notes and tests. Yet in Room 43, adorned with intricate 3-D models and geometric figurines, students enter a dazzling new world, one where math is an art form and Abby Brown, a teacher of both the freshmen Integrated Math 1 and the highest-level mathematics classes offered at TPHS—Advanced Mathematics and Calculus D-Linear Algebra—is the conductor. 

Brown (‘92) realized her passion for math shortly after her time as a student at TPHS, when studying mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. 

“I get excited about the beauty of mathematics itself,” Brown said. “I liked the puzzle aspect of math problems; I liked the satisfaction of getting the answer.”

Despite having the passion and most definitely the credentials to be a professor or researcher, Brown was drawn to teaching. She was not interested in purely studying mathematical theory at a level that few people in the world would understand. 

“Even when I was in high school, I think I always envisioned myself as a math teacher,” Brown said. 

She is now in her 28th year of teaching, 25 of which have been at TPHS. 

Over the course of those years, Brown has cultivated an atmosphere of tranquility that is necessary for learning, but not one most students find inside a math classroom. 

“I think students feel really safe and comfortable in my classes because there’s not a lot of uncertainty,” Brown said. “I know a lot of times there’s so much craziness in people’s lives that when they feel like they don’t know what to expect, it can create more stress.”

For Brown, everything from her teaching style to her tests are for the enrichment of her students. She likes to put herself in students’ shoes when planning a lesson and thinking about how the class is run.

Last year, Riley Cullivan (10) had Brown as her Integrated Math 1 Honors first-period teacher. 

“[Brown] specializes her teaching toward different types of learners, which I had never had in a math class,” Cullivan said. “I personally am a visual learner and so she would go to the board and explain the process step-by-step, helping me feel so much more comfortable with the overwhelming concepts.” 

While her lessons are tailored on an individual level, Brown has developed an environment where such focus also captures the attention of the whole class. 

Math Club Co-President Jacopo Rizzo (12), a student in Brown’s Advanced Topics class, described such a balance during a class demonstration.  

“Last week, a student had a question on how they could draw something around a circle in Mathematica using the Table function, and so Mrs. Brown pulled up a whole new notebook and was going through the demo,” Rizzo said. “Most of the class was actually watching because it was pretty interesting to see. So she was helping one person, but everyone else tuned in too because it was really cool.” 

Brown’s inquisitive nature causes a domino effect on her students, not only inspiring their enthusiasm about the subject of math, but also triggering them to come to their own conclusions.

“She has a curious mind,” fellow math teacher Zakia Chowdhury said. 

Brown’s encouragement causes her classes to constantly dive into the deep end of the mathematical world, none farther than her Advanced Topics class.

“We do smaller assignments and lead up to bigger projects, but they don’t all necessarily look like math, we will do things involving animations, image processing, working with sound machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Brown said. 

The uniqueness of this class is what really speaks to students; showcased through the usage of software like Wolfram Mathmatica, which allows students to be able to make connections between concepts and apply their problems to the real world. 

The lengths to which Brown goes to ensure her students’ success and encourage their evergrowing curiosity won her the Wolfram Innovator Award in 2018 for her excellence in teaching mathematics. The Advanced Topics course is open to any students taking Calculus; it’s an opportunity to learn beyond current knowledge and implement known concepts into modern applications.

“We have a lot of freedom in the projects we do, the only requirements are that you have to use certain functions sometimes,” Math Club Co-President Elliott Liu (12), a student in Advanced Topics, said.

With her door always open, Brown’s involvement in the math department is immeasurable. She advises the TPHS Math Club and the Computational Thinking Club, which acts as an introduction to students into the world of Wolfram Language. Furthermore, she helps students put on a math show in the spring, which allows students from advanced classes to showcase their hard work and the unique projects they’ve been working on.

It is apparent that Brown’s effect on TPHS does not stop at students; she inspires her fellow teachers constantly to think outside the realm of normalcy. 

“She has given me multiple 3D-printed models over the years. These models help my students to visualize the solids when they are learning how to calculate the volume of such solids by using Calculus,” Chowdhury said.  

Wrapped inside the safety of Room 43, students are able to use Brown’s support as a launch pad into the world of curiosity and mathematics. Whether they are wandering freshmen awaiting their first introduction to high school math in Integrated Math 1 or seniors ready for a send-off in Advanced Topics, Brown’s classes represent more than just notes and tests; they represent the beauty of math itself.  

photo by Natalia Mochernak/Falconer

1,045 thoughts on “Teacher Feature: Abby Brown

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