On most counts, Jamie Tucker–Foltz is your average teenager. Hailing from Colorado, he’s into juggling (keeps five clubs in the air, and shooting for six), plays volleyball, likes to draw and paint, and enjoys building computer games using the MIT Media Lab-created Scratch programming tool. Academically, however, he’s facing a challenge that far fewer teenagers can claim to have achieved: “I’m a sophomore at Boulder High School, and basically, I’ve run out of classes.”
A highly gifted student, Jamie has been taking his high school’s advanced math and science courses since seventh grade, so it’s no surprise that he’s exhausted major portions of their STEM curriculum. While his parents and the school system had always been strong advocates for Jamie’s needs, they were nearly out of options. They had hoped that some nearby colleges might offer a solution, but couldn’t get Jamie a spot in the over-enrolled freshman classes that he required. He tried auditing some of the less popular college math courses, but found them discouraging–often taught by novice graduate students to a sparse audience.
That’s when his parents turned to MIT OpenCourseWare. Jamie was already familiar with OCW from seventh grade, when he followed Walter Lewin’s 8.02 Electricity and Magnetism lectures to help him better understand some key concepts in his high school physics class. This time, however, was different: They wanted to use OCW’s 18.02SC Multivariate Calculus as a full-credit course. Working with his high school’s administration, Jamie and his parents devised an independent study program in which Jamie would watch all the lectures, complete the assigned problem sets, and take the exams in a controlled setting. Jamie’s mother also found a doctoral student in Applied Mathematics as a weekly tutor to help Jamie whenever he got stuck. Read more.