emily bargar, Mathematics

emily-bargar01In love with math since she was four-years-old, emily bargar remembers bringing a piece of colored chalk to her father, asking him to teach her long division. “I didn’t know what long division was at the time, but I thought it sounded so neat,” she says. Bedtime stories were replaced with bedtime math problems, and she couldn’t fall asleep until she was assured she had solved them correctly.

Once emily mastered some equations, she made sure her younger sister could do the calculations, as well. Her love of teaching was born.

“Young children don’t typically enjoy engaging about math on the playground,” says emily, “but that didn’t stop me from doing it.”

In high school, emily began tutoring her peers. She helped found a successful math and science study hall, where students interested in the sciences could find challenge and camaraderie, and those discouraged by the subjects could find help and support.

emily earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree from Northeastern University. At Northeastern, emily taught courses like Mathematical Reasoning (for incoming math majors), where she conversed at a high level with other “math-y” types, she says. She realized, however, that she equally enjoyed teaching those who weren’t as excited by the subject; success, for her, was helping to change these students’ thinking about math, and helping them realize that math was do-able.

At Northeastern, emily also served as the head mentor for PRISM. Supported by the National Science Foundation, PRISM promotes interest in math and science among college and high-school students.

“High school is such a cool time, developmentally,” she says. “Over those four years, you develop personal agency in a way that other people respect,” she says. “I care deeply about the messages that people receive at this age—from their peers, from the media, from the adults in their lives—and I want to be a presence for young people.”

Joining Milton’s math department was a joyful step for emily, combining many of her loves.

“Milton students care about education. Even if math isn’t their favorite subject, they are charmed by the thinking and the problem solving that goes into it. They’re more willing to ‘eat their vegetables.’ If you put the right math problem in front of a student, he or she will get lost in solving the puzzle rather than ‘doing math.’”

With lots of experience working with “super math-y people and math-phobic people,” she’s now refining the sweet spot of teaching those students in the middle.

“Milton students are honest and willing to share what they’re thinking, which gives me the chance to adjust, and catch them again,” emily says. “This School facilitates really authentic interactions, which makes teaching an even greater joy.”

emily has made her presence at Milton known in just one semester: she is advisor to five “wonderful” students, she’s teaching a section of HS&R, she’s a fan and supporter of GASP!, and faculty advisor to the Math Club.

“Math Club is a place where we can marvel in math’s beauty and revel in its practicality. Math is beautiful and practical, not always at the same time, but sometimes at the same time, and that’s magical.”

Hoping to build the impact of the Math Club and start a Math Team, she has introduced more students to math contest exams, and next year she hopes to bring students to contest exams off campus, at schools like Harvard and MIT.

“Contest exams are a great means through which math-y people can congregate. They’re fun, and they’re a great way to celebrate this subject. The more excited we are to do math, the more we practice, and the better we get.”

Next up on emily’s to-do list is drumming up student interest in her other two loves: knitting and juggling. When the weather warms up, don’t be surprised to find her on the Quad, knitting a Mobius strip, while chatting up students about the seeds of Milton’s first Circus Club.