Oct. 29, 2020 — By third grade, Bailey Koo ’23 had mastered calculus and was delving into number theory. Now a 10th grader at NMH, she possesses a graduate-level knowledge of math, excels in math competitions in the U.S. and internationally, has attended college-sponsored summer programs to study topics like dimensional analysis, and maintains a network of like-minded people all over the world who communicate about math problems and solutions.
“I’ve always loved numbers,” Bailey said. “When I was really little I used to watch the numbers change in the elevator going up to our 11th-floor apartment. I learned numbers before I learned the Korean language.” Bailey, who is from Seoul and Los Angeles, can calmly and patiently describe math terms such as fractals and combinatorics. She is quick to acknowledge how NMH has supported her natural aptitude in math and love of the subject by allowing her to conduct independent mathematics research for credit. She’s a math tutor, and leads the math club, the robotics club, the coding club, and the international STEM journal club. She also loves art, history, chemistry, and creative writing, and says being a second-year student at NMH has already provided her with lessons that reach far beyond the highest-level math courses.
“What I have especially learned is how important it is to have good communications skills,” she said. “You might be able to do high-level math — that’s fine for working independently. But, what may be obvious to one person may not be obvious to others. If you want to be able to collaborate, you need to communicate well. At NMH, I’ve learned how to communicate better with other students, and with my teachers and other adults.”
Even tutoring her peers in math provided some surprising benefits. “Something I didn’t expect going in was having to gauge students’ emotions, especially during stressful times like during exams and finals. It’s been a really valuable experience for me. It’s not only my job to help them academically, but to help them handle those emotions and provide support.”
Math teacher Mark Yates attests to Bailey’s skills as a tutor: “She has a brilliant mind for math, and she helps her classmates without condescension.”
Bailey also has a pep talk for anyone struggling with math, especially those who think they are inherently “bad at math.” She said, “A lot of people think math is boring or that they’ll never be good at it. A natural ability will only get someone so far. It’s like basketball. If you’re tall, you’ll have an advantage. But just because you’re tall doesn't mean you’ll be a good player, and not all good basketball players are tall. The best ones practice a lot and work hard. The same is true for math. Everyone has the chance to improve.”
See photos of Bailey and the math club.