Thinking and Problem Solving: Math in the Real World

III. August 7–11, 2023
Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 1:00–3:00 p.m. (EST)
Patrick Galarza
Students comfortable with basic algebraic concepts will be most prepared to succeed.

“[I gained] a better understanding of math in the real world and how I can build a career out of it.”  – Preethi S. | Bangalore, India

Course Description

In this course intended for students who enjoy mathematics and logical reasoning, participants explore innovative ways in which math is used in the real world, in fields such as economics, computer science, media, and the physical sciences. By engaging with challenging practical problems, students hone their independent thinking and problem-solving skills.

Areas covered include the following:

  • Graph theory, a topic heavily developed by both mathematicians and computer scientists. We explore algorithmic ways to compute, for example, the optimal path between two points on a map (minimizing cost, time, or another parameter). Another application is minimizing the cost of an electrical network which has to provide power to all residents in a new neighborhood.
  • Probability and its numerous applications. We look at how probabilities are applied in economics and in popular media, and examine how they can sometimes be counter-intuitive or even deceptive.
  • Various counting methods, combinatorics, and examples of Nash equilibria. We study applications of these techniques in economics (the prisoner's dilemma), computer science (assessing the complexity of an algorithm), finance (loans and investments), and biology (population growth).

Students work individually and in groups to find creative solutions to given problems. Each student also works on a project of his or her own choosing, on a topic about which he or she is passionate.

Registration Guidance & Call Number(s)

To view detailed information on a particular offering, click on the call number to be directed to the Directory of Classes catalogue.

MARW0101 (D01) | Call Number: 10523

Further guidance on the registration process can be found here.


Patrick Galarza

Patrick Galarza holds a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.A. and PhD in Mathematics Education, all from Columbia University. In his decade-plus teaching career, he has served as a mathematics education researcher at Teachers College and also as chair of a pre-secondary STEM department. He currently instructs primarily through Avenues: The World School’s New York campus where he focuses on curriculum refinement and competitive mathematics opportunities. In his doctoral thesis, "The Effects of Mathematical Game Play on the Cognitive and Affective Development of Pre-Secondary Students", Galarza performed a case study to explore how alternative course instruction may impact mathematics learners during a transition to formal operational thinking; with this, he provided recommendations for how non-traditional learning tools (and educational games, specifically) might be designed better.

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.