Gifted Math Program Prepares High School Student for Undergraduate Research

Samantha Carozzi is currently an 11th grade student at Cooper City High School in Broward County, Florida. She completed all five levels of the IMACS Math Enrichment Program during grades 1-5. In middle school she started IMACS University Computer Science and was part of the second cohort of public school students to complete the Elements of Mathematics: Foundations (EMF) math program for highly gifted and talented youth. Samantha recently emailed the following advice for younger students, as well as an update on the research she is doing at a major university.

EMF is an amazing math program by IMACS for advanced middle or high school students. You may have heard that EMF is very challenging, especially if you complete it during middle school. For me, EMF was worth all the hard work because it opened up opportunities that I would not have gotten otherwise.

With the help of the EMF staff at IMACS, as an 11th grader I was able to pursue research experiences at the University of Florida that have historically been reserved for undergraduates. After several interviews, I successfully landed a position with a chemical engineering professor on a project that uses both chemical and computational engineering to tackle large scale environmental issues, such as removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

This project truly captivated my mind as it embodied the interconnected nature of mathematics and science. I know that the intellectual depth and maturity that EMF developed in me, as well as the advanced computer programming skills I learned at IMACS, were essential to my being prepared for this role.

My UF research experience was a natural extension of the college math courses I have been able to take through UF’s Dual Enrollment program for EMF graduates. So far I have completed Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Calculus 3, and Differential Equations and earned a high A or A+ in all. I am sure this helped convince my research advisor that I was capable of handling the responsibilities of the project, even though I was only in high school.

My UF courses were simplified by the logical reasoning skills developed through EMF’s proof-based approach.

While these UF courses were challenging, they were simplified by the logical reasoning skills I developed through EMF’s proof-based approach. EMF doesn’t simply teach formulas and algorithms. It teaches how math works, why math exists, and most importantly, it teaches you how to think. I found myself understanding many concepts that my UF undergraduate classmates struggled with.

My former EMF classmates and I also apply our logical reasoning skills to classes such as AP Physics and AP Chemistry. We easily understand the mathematics underlying the science and find ourselves solving many of the problems identically. I even apply my logic skills to non-STEM subjects and recently showed my AP US History teacher how the answers to many test questions can be reasoned without any subject knowledge.

IMACS, with their emphasis on logic, taught me at a young age how to think clearly.

I have been an IMACS student since first grade. Even though I was accelerated in math during elementary school, it was my IMACS classes with their emphasis on logic that taught me at a young age how to think clearly. When I got to sixth grade and qualified to take EMF for my middle school math classes, I was pretty sure I would learn a lot and not get bored. Upon solving the first problem in the first course, I was hooked!

EMF gave me access to unique opportunities.

EMF was most certainly harder than anything I had attempted previously. Looking back now as a high school junior, I can say without a doubt that persevering through the program was one of the best decisions I have made. EMF gave me access to unique opportunities and prepared me with the knowledge, skills, and tenacity needed to take full advantage. I am truly grateful to have been part of this extraordinary math program.

Samantha Carozzi
IMACS and EMF Graduate

Additional Commentary by EMF Graduates