Preparing Boys for Life.
The genesis of Newton's Notebook
Susan Mitchell, Math Department Chair

One of the most exciting new endeavors in the math department this year has been the creation of the first volume of the math journal, Newton's Notebook. In this blog post, Math Department Chair Susan Mitchell discusses the goals of the journal, which include soliciting articles from faculty and students from the entire community, and fostering student interest in all aspects of mathematics.

A math journal is a collection of articles about pure and applied mathematics. The articles are not necessarily original mathematics, but are meant to explore existing ideas or highlight interesting applications of mathematical concepts. Newton's Notebook comprises a collection of articles from the entire Haverford community, including faculty and students from all three divisions.

I learned about the concept of a math journal from a former colleague at another independent school. He was exploring creative options for his highest level math students to investigate mathematics outside the context of the standard curriculum. The majority of the articles in his journal were quite sophisticated, and perhaps even intimidating, to many students.

One of our goals in the math department is to help the boys learn to communicate the language of mathematics clearly and concisely; Newton's Notebook provides a perfect platform for this.

For Newton's Notebook, my vision was to include submissions from boys at all levels of their mathematical development, and to encourage the boys to explore both pure and applied mathematics. Additionally, one of our goals in the math department is to help the boys learn to communicate the language of mathematics clearly and concisely; Newton's Notebook provides a perfect platform for this.

One of my favorites quotes is "Vision without execution is hallucination," by Thomas Edison. So my first step towards making the journal a reality was to build a team of boys who I thought would enjoy this type of project. I reached out to VI Former Jose Martinez, one of our strongest math students, and he was enthusiastic about the idea. He emailed some of his peers to gauge the level of interest, and VI Former Will McDevitt quickly jumped on board. Will's tireless work ethic and desire to leave a legacy at Haverford propelled him to become the driving force behind Newton's Notebook.

Pictured above: VI Formers Jose Martinez and Will McDevitt, who served as editors of the inaugural journal; some interior pages of Newton's Notebook.

One surprising outcome for me was how enthusiastic and creative the boys were about ideas that combined mathematics with their personal interests. We have articles that explore pure mathematics, such as IV Former Mickey Fairorth's article on Fermat's Last Theorem, and V Former Eusha Hasan's article exploring the cult-like civilization of the Pythagoreans.

The biggest job when creating the journal was soliciting articles. One surprising outcome for me was how enthusiastic and creative the boys were about ideas that combined mathematics with their personal interests. VI Former Caleb Clothier authored an article about physics and finance, which will be featured in my former colleague's math journal in a school just outside Baltimore. We have articles that explore pure mathematics, such as IV Former Mickey Fairorth's article on Fermat's Last Theorem, and V Former Eusha Hasan's article exploring the cult-like civilization of the Pythagoreans. I am very excited to be able to include one faculty submission by Mr. Patrylak, two articles from middle schoolers, and one article written by Eusha detailing the invention of a robotic trash can by a Haverford third grader. Will and several other contributors to the journal helped these young mathematicians shape their ideas into articles. I hope their success will inspire other boys in the Lower and Middle Schools to contribute in the future.

The mission of Newton's Notebook is "to enhance the interests, talents, and achievements of all individuals in the mathematical sciences, and provide the opportunity to promote the work of those most passionate about the discipline. The articles were written by members of the Haverford community and edited by our staff. We hope that reading these articles will inspire others to explore the fascinating realm of mathematics."

There were many people involved in the creation of Newton's Notebook, but I want to recognize VI Former Harper Weigle for the original logo design, and Ms. Blatt for her artistic contributions to the layout of the journal and consistent support throughout the process. Finally, I would like to congratulate Eusha Hasan and Mickey Fairorth, who will become the editors-in-chief for Volume II of Newton's Notebook.

Download the full PDF of Newton's Notebook here >

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