Engineering management director develops high school math program

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"One Seaholm High School teacher is changing the “when will I use this?” mentality that students often have in math classes.

Thad Wilhelm, head of the school’s department of mathematics, worked with Kenneth Chelst, director of engineering management and professor of operations research at Wayne State University, to develop an operations research course for high school classrooms. The course aims to approach math as a way to solve practical problems beyond the textbook, such as how to find the best cellphone wireless plan or how to make an optimized schedule for a workplace."

"Chelst, who has a P.h.D in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  and has helped major corporations such as Ford Motor Co. and IBM implement analytics programs, said he considers himself a missionary for modernized math education.

“My main strategy has been (that) every teacher I reach will teach 100 kids that year, and maybe 1,000 over their career,”  he said. “I almost never talk to high school kids directly. I only talk to their teachers in hopes of motivating them to use some of the examples, some of the concepts in their class.”

In his talk, Chelst said operations research students learn how to analyze data using Microsoft Excel. The dreaded word problems involving flagpole shadows, rates of travel between two cities, and speeds of filling a bathtub are tossed in favor of using computerized models to produce results that make students think critically about how to optimize data."