The following course descriptions detail the likely offerings during any school year, though specifics will vary from term to term and course lineups are always changing. Click on the course titles below for full descriptions.
This second year calculus course begins with the analytic study of vectors, lines, planes and surfaces in space, partial differentiation and multiple integration. Other topics included are advanced methods of integration, sequences, infinite series, series of functions and their derivatives and integrals, and the calculus of parametrically defined functions and polar functions. Students will be prepared to take the BC level AP exam in the spring. Prerequisite: satisfactory completion of AP Calculus AB.
This course follows the Advanced Placement syllabus for first-level calculus. The topics covered are the elementary functions, limits, the derivative and its applications, and the integral and its applications. Prerequisite: permission of the department.
This course is for mathematically talented students who can manage its quantitative and technical challenges on top of their regular mathematics program. The course covers the mathematical foundations and language fluency necessary to produce logically correct, efficient, and readable computer-based solutions to a wide range of problems. Students complete two or three major programing projects, with special attention paid to programming methodology: design, coding, testing and documentation; development and analysis of sorting, searching, numerical algorithms, recursive algorithms and string processing; and programming in Java, including an exploration of its important features, class hierarchies, control structures and use of built-in Libraries. Prerequisite: permission of the department. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
This is a mathematical treatment of the subject that demands of the student greater algebraic skills—but no less appreciation for the worldly nature of the subject—than is demanded by a conceptual statistics course. A careful treatment of experimental design, correlation, least squares regression, confidence intervals, and statistical inference makes up the backbone of this course, with student projects and investigations used liberally to engage the learner in these ideas. Prerequisite: permission of the department. Open to seniors.
This trimester course is intended for students who have completed the usual study of polynomial, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions. The emphasis is on using these functions to make mathematical models of real data. The graphing calculator and Fathom are used extensively. There are no in-class tests in this course. Students are assessed primarily on written lab assignments explaining how their equations, graphical representations of data, and situations are connected.
Big data are all around us. How can computer applications help us sift through and provide meaningful knowledge from the heaps of data that comprise our information world? Students develop some coding skills as a basis of their work, but also rely on pre-written modules to facilitate their investigation. Students bring an area of interest they would like to pursue in taking this course. Open to juniors and seniors.
Using Java, students extend their understanding of data structures and algorithms by completing projects involving hashing, sets, lists, trees, and maps. Algorithms associated with these ideas involve more advanced approaches, including recursion, simulated annealing, q-learning, and backtracking. Over the course of the year, increasing emphasis is given to these ideas in the control of autonomous robots. Beginning with a study of basic engineering elements, students go on to use both Mindstorms vehicles and NAO humanoid robots to tackle typical problems of coordination, localization, navigation, and communication in robotics settings. Sensor-actuator design and implementation are at the core of this experience so that the robots created are autonomous. Taught in a seminar style, this course carries the expectation that students are able to work under their own initiative to complete a variety of major projects during the year. Prerequisite: permission of the department. Open to seniors.
This trimester course examines the two central concepts of calculus, the derivative and the integral, in an applied, problem-solving setting. Students acquire a sense of the usefulness of calculus in business, economics, and science. They use algebraic, geometric, and trigonometric fundamentals covered earlier in their mathematics education as they learn to execute the mechanics of calculus. This course is appropriate for both those who will go on to study calculus at the university level and for those who are completing their mathematics education.
This course provides an introduction to advanced programming algorithms in Java as well as principles of robotics and the programming of autonomous machines. Also studied: exhaustive search backtracking simulated annealing genetic algorithms, and exotic data structures that can be combined to solve a variety of important problems in computer science. In robotics we look at biological systems as “existence proofs” of sensory and control solutions and search for creative ways to simulate these in our own vehicles.
This course builds on the foundation of Algebra I with an increased emphasis on problems requiring multi-step solutions and on reading and writing about mathematics. Some geometric topics are introduced, as well as aspects of deductive reasoning. Students receive their first exposure to complex numbers, rational expressions, functions, rational and real exponents.
The first of a two-course sequence to prepare students for the study of calculus, an understanding of conjectural and deductive thought (including proofs), and a sense of the variety of mathematical fields and the distinctions and connections among them. Also covered: the basics of the Euclidean geometry of triangles, parallels and circles using synthetic and analytic perspectives; the use of a programmable graphing calculator, the analytic geometry of translations and scale changes; the fundamental mathematics of real numbers and functions; and a study of polynomial, rational, algebraic, exponential, and logarithmic functions.
A continuation of Math III, covering subtler methods, results, and proofs in geometry; including triangle trigonometry, circular functions, and analytic trigonometry; conic sections; and topics from discrete mathematics, analysis, and other fields. There is some emphasis on modeling, and one honors section spends the last third of the year starting the Calculus AB Advanced Placement syllabus.
This third-year course in calculus extends the ideas of two dimensions to 3-space and beyond. Notions of slope, tangency, concavity, arc length, and volume are re-crafted to fit the broader possibilities that arise in this new context. Vector, parametric, and polar representations are also treated thoroughly. Several “landmark” results are derived, including. The course, which features regular presentations by students to their classmates, culminates in the treatment of line integrals and Green’s Theorem.
In an “information revolution,” the protection and communication of data is of considerable value. Methods for keeping computer systems, military data, manufacturing secrets, and other sensitive data out of the hands of those to whom it doesn’t belong require interesting—and surprisingly beautiful—mathematical ideas. Not just for the computer-oriented, this course is designed for any students with curiosity about numbers. The class also examines the twists and turns that make up the colorful history of coding and code breaking.
A descriptive approach to the standard methods of collecting, organizing, and interpreting data. Methods of sampling, experimentation, and measurement are covered, as are the frequency tables, distributions, and graphs used to present data collected in such ways. Correlation, prediction, causation versus association, and confidence intervals are presented. Designed to train students to have a critical eye, and to give them the language with which to express this understanding and criticism.
Chair of Mathematics Department; Environmental Action Committee Advisor
Kurt came to know our school through Thacher’s exchange with the all-girls Emma Willard School (NY), where he was teaching in the late 1970’s. (This exchange was the trial balloon that floated well enough for the School to commit to coeducation.) Soon thereafter, he and his young family moved West to sign on for the long haul.
Besides teaching mathematics, robotics, and computer science, Kurt serves as head of the School’s Environmental Action Committee, a student group dedicated to making Thacher as environmentally responsible as possible. As a seasoned camper, Kurt has also enjoyed trans-Sierra hikes of 60-70 miles, replete with “beautiful weather, high peaks, magnificent vistas, and marvelous kids.”
Kurt advises freshmen boys and joins students as they sing to residents of two local retirement homes. His deep passion for music continues in his own jazz piano playing and in his participation in the various ad hoc faculty singing groups that spring into being each year. Kurt and his wife, Alice, live in Lower School dormitory; their two sons are Thacher graduates.
Mathematics; Athletic Director
Plymouth State University - BS Plymouth State University - MEd
In addition to serving as Thacher’s athletic director, Pete teaches mathematics, advises freshman boys, and is the varsity coach for the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams. He holds a master’s degree in mathematics education from Plymouth State University and has presented at the California Mathematics Teachers Conference and the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics. In his 27 years as a teacher, he has worked at the Webb Schools in Claremont, California, the Holderness School in New Hampshire, and Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Pete has also been a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association since 1986, having achieved the ranking of Elite Professional. He has been coaching high school tennis for 36 years. In 2007, he coached a state championship girls’ team in New Hampshire and led the Thacher boys’ team to the CIF championship in 2008. Most recently, he guided the Thacher girls’ varsity tennis team to consecutive CIF finals appearances in 2014 and 2015, winning the championship in 2015. In addition, he has led his teams to two state finals (2001 and 2014), coached a singles champion (2002) and doubles champion (1987). Moreover, in 2015, he was named the California High School tennis coach of the year by the USPTA. Pete lives with his wife, Ann Merlini, the Middle School dorm head, and his dog Maime. In his spare time, he enjoys biking, boating, fly fishing, and his cabin on Lake Winnipesaukee.
As Dean of Students at Thacher, Sabina draws on 12 years of experience at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts, where she was Associate Dean of Student Life; she also taught mathematics and was head of a boys’ dorm. At Thacher, Sabina teaches mathematics, serves as Head of Sespe, advises senior girls and coaches soccer. She treasures especially the open student-faculty relationships that our small community fosters. Sabina spends her summers as managing director of Camp Moosilauke in Orford, New Hampshire, a business that has been in her family for several generations. She’s an avid runner, and she loves reading and spending time with her husband, Bill, and their three boys, one a current Thacher student and two recent CdeP graduates. The McMahons live on campus.
William teaches math and works in the Horse Program. As the stepfather of a Thacher grad, he's known his way around Thacher for some time. Together, he and his stepson inaugurated a
weekly meditation program on campus. A man of many talents, William was director of Ojai's Dharma Center
for five years, he designs and builds websites, and he holds an advanced degree in geology. William lives with his wife in Ojai near Shelf Road, where you can often find him out walking their puppy.
Gonzaga University - BBA University of Notre Dame - M Ed
Tyler Popa joins the Thacher faculty with recent experience both coaching and teaching at a classical liberal arts charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Tyler previously served as a middle school teacher in West Phoenix as a part of the Alliance for Catholic Education, a M.Ed program at the University of Notre Dame. Tyler comes to Thacher with a rich love for all things athletics, academics, and just being outside! He is a proud alumni of Gonzaga university and avid basketball enthusiast.
Kamala teaches math and programming classes at Thacher. She is the recipient of a bachelor’s and a doctorate degree from UCSB, where she conducted research on designing energy efficient microsystems to replace current technologies. She’s excited to not only be sharing her love of mathematics with Thacher students, but also to be introducing them to the fundamentals of programming and robotics. In 2006 she “retired from city life” and relocated to Ojai with her husband, Bodhi, and their two sons, to help run the family avocado farm and raise her children in a more natural and peaceful environment.
Born and raised on a boarding school campus in Hawaii (Hawaii Preparatory Academy, to be exact), Theana is no stranger to the rigors of life at a boarding school. She has spent much of her adult life here—teaching math, coaching, and camping. She met her husband Aaron here at Thacher. The passions of this Hawaii native also lead her back to the Pacific; she enjoys hula, outrigger canoe paddling, traditional navigation, and the study of Micronesia and Japan. Before arriving at Thacher and after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Theana taught mathematics at public high schools in Colorado Springs. She lives in Los Padres with her husband, Aaron, their children, Gavin, Zoey, and Luke, and their mutt, Cubby.
Director of the Thacher Observatory; Mathematics; Science
University of California, Berkeley - PhD University of California, Los Angeles - B.S.
Jon was born in New York, but soon after moved to North County San Diego where he grew up surfing and playing sports. As a teenager, he began writing poetry and music that was inspired primarily by the natural world and our relation to it. In parallel with Jon’s artistic endeavors that continue today, his thirst for knowledge has drawn him to the intellectual frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics, where he has published research on several topics from cosmology to exoplanets to astronomical instrumentation. At Thacher, Jon directs the campus observatory, which has recently been renovated with full automation capability and a new, research-grade telescope. Jon is in the process of integrating this unique facility into the community and the Thacher curriculum while continuing with professional research. Jon teaches physics, mathematics, astronomy, and data science, and he helps to coach the soccer and tennis teams. Jon lives on campus with his wife Gloria, daughter Annika, and son Ansel.
An experienced teacher of AP Calculus, Gallia has been a reader of AP exams and serves as coordinator of all AP exams administered at Thacher. Gallia also brings a lifelong passion for dance to her work at Thacher. She began training in classical ballet as a child and danced with the Cleveland Ballet before attending Princeton, where she fell in love with modern dance and musical theater. She has built the dance program to include technique classes in ballet and modern dance to support a student repertory company. Music is the driving force behind her work as both the inspiration and the basis of her choreographic plan. She brings dance and mathematics together in the creation of abstract, yet expressive, works that use patterns and canons to follow the textures she finds in the music. Before Thacher, she taught dance and mathematics at the Purnell School in Pottersville, New Jersey. Mother of two grown daughters, and now an advisor to junior girls, Gallia lives on campus with her husband Bill.