Andrew Haar became a teacher of mathematics in kindergarten. He vividly recalls the moment he discovered division on his own and the joy he felt from sharing his discovery with his fellow 5- and 6-year-old classmates.
Haar, a graduate of the International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, is now in his third year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is already taking two graduate-level courses in mathematics.
Haar’s strength? He’s really good at math.
His weakness? He’s really good at math.
“The thing is, when I come across a problem that really stumps me, it is really frustrating for me, and I just never developed a lot of patience in this respect,” Haar said.
But he’s grown in patience through his research with faculty member Petronela Radu on developing a nonlocal vector calculus. Haar chose this research topic because it’s the type of math he enjoys.
He started discovering the beauty of math with his dad over cups of coffee on Saturday mornings, in the kitchen with his mom, and in middle school and high school with his teacher and mentor, Patrick Janike, who helped Haar realize that he wanted to pursue a career in mathematics. Haar liked math not because it was useful or would lead to a great career, but because it was interesting.
“From then on, though, I have always wanted to teach math—to share its beauty with people,” Haar said.
He might share that beauty someday in Germany, where he spent five months this year taking math courses and experiencing the culture, thanks to generous scholarships. Haar traveled to the surrounding European countries, making lifelong memories with friends. On Tuesdays, Haar would visit the library to finish his math homework, and then he’d stop for dinner in a little Vietnamese restaurant, where they knew his order by heart.
He said the biggest lesson he learned was that change is inevitable. When Haar arrived in Germany, he was confident in his character and identity, and didn’t expect to be changed much.
“But my perspective on the world is so different after being in Germany,” Haar said. “For that matter, my perspective on math and my math abilities changed so much as a result of my experience. I know who I want to be, but I also know that that will likely change.”
Haar plans to graduate in 2020 and pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics so he can become a university professor. He hasn’t decided where he’ll attend graduate school, but Germany tugs at his heart.
“I just love the culture, people and location so much," Haar said. "The idea feels totally crazy, but it also feels not crazy at all at the same time. It feels quite natural, to be honest.”
- Alli Davis, UNL student writer, CSMCE