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Teaching & Learning

An extraordinary aptitude for numbers

22 November 2023
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Fifteen-year-old Atticus Hall has a knack for math. The Grade 10 student has been making his way through university-level math and calculus classes with the help of Dr. Shaun Fallat, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and he has no intention of stopping. 

It all started when Dr. Fallat got a note on Facebook from a Christiane Thorson. Christiane is Atticus’ grandmother, and was, many years ago, Dr. Fallat’s children’s kindergarten teacher. It turns out that after Atticus began to show an interest in math, she remembered that Dr. Fallat was a math professor and she reached out to him for guidance. 

That connection had Atticus and his mom, Erica Thorson, chatting with Dr. Fallat, and they met up on campus during Reading Week earlier this year. Right off the bat, Dr. Fallat was impressed with Atticus’ knowledge and how quickly he learned new material. 

The potential in Atticus is truly endless … I’m really appreciative of this opportunity to work with him. — Dr. Shaun Fallat, Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

“Atticus told me that he had taught himself the entire high school math curriculum, and he was only in Grade 9 at the time,” says Fallat. “He had also finished Calculus I, which is a university course, by himself. I started quizzing him, and he was working on the board. It was clear at that moment that I was in the presence of someone with an extraordinary aptitude for numbers.” 

Fallat then talked to Dr. Remus Floricel, Mathematics and Statistics Department Head, about letting Atticus challenge the Calculus I exam. He did, and scored 100%. 

The High School Accelerated Program

Following the Calculus I exam, Fallat worked with Dr. Douglas Farenick (Dean, Faculty of Science), the Registrar’s Office, and the Centre for Continuing Education, to get Atticus enrolled in the High School Accelerated Program (HSXL) at the U of R. It took a bit of additional work, as this program is typically for students in Grades 11 and 12; Atticus was only in his second semester of Grade 9 at the time. 

“The University was really great, they let me vouch for Atticus,” says Dr. Fallat. “So, we got him a student ID number and enrolled him in Calculus II. We worked through the course material over Zoom, and he finished the class with a 95%.” 

Individual standing in front of a white board.
Atticus Hall is making the most of his high school and university experience with the High School Accelerated Program. Credit: University Advancement and Communications

Over the summer 2023 semester, Atticus took Math 213 (formerly Calculus III), his first on-campus university course. For Erica Thorson, dropping off her 15-year-old son at the U of R to attend a second-year university class was a bit surreal. However, she immediately saw that everyone around him wanted him to succeed. 

“Having Dr. Fallat, and all of the other people that he’s met at the University, be so supportive and encouraging really helped, he’s gotten a lot more confident,” says Thorson. “He jumped right into it!” 

Thorson remembers Atticus’ interest in math starting when he was in Grade 8 watching videos online, taking courses through Khan Academy, and teaching himself the entire high school math curriculum. His mother knew, however, that there would be a limit to what Atticus could learn through the online resources available to him. 

Excited and engaged

“He was doing a lot of independent study on his own, but it would have gotten to a place where the online resources just weren’t enough,” says Thorson. “It’s been really wonderful working with Dr. Fallat, it’s really gotten Atticus excited and engaged in the work he is doing.” 

Atticus never really considered that taking university classes would be an option at his age, until he started working with Dr. Fallat. 

“Once we talked about it, I started to get really interested,” says Atticus. “I thought it would be a nice way to explore my interests.” 

On top of math and calculus, Atticus has a keen interest in physics.      

“In Grade 8, I also got really interested in physics,” says Atticus. “I’m going to try and do something in physics, I’m interested in being a physicist or an engineer.” 

Atticus is now in Grade 10, and he and Dr. Fallat are working their way through Math 122, a linear algebra course. Atticus plans to take another course next semester. 

“The potential in Atticus is truly endless,” says Dr. Fallat. “I never cease to be amazed by this young man.” 

In high school and want to get a head start on university? Find out more about HSXL and the HSXL Dual Credit Bursary Program at the U of R!

Dr. Fallat and Atticus both credit the Faculty of Science, the Registrar’s Office, and the HSXL program for the new opportunities Atticus has been able to experience at the U of R. 

“The University has been really open about providing opportunities for Atticus, and I think that’s really cool,” says Fallat. “Discovery is what we’re all about, so why not give it a shot? I’m really appreciative of this opportunity to work with him.”

Banner photo: Dr. Shaun Fallat (left) and high school student Atticus Hall have been working their way through math problems since February. Credit: University Communications and Marketing

About the University of Regina

Set in the heart of the Canadian prairies we are a comprehensive, mid-sized university where the opportunities are as limitless as the horizon. Our campuses are on Treaty 4 and 6 - the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the homeland of the Michif/Métis nation. It is our responsibility to strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities to build a more inclusive future for all. Our three federated colleges, 10 faculties, 25 academic departments, and 18 research centres foster innovative research with practical and theoretical applications. We are committed to cultivating the potential of our 16,000 students and supporting their health and well-being. We take learning beyond the classroom through work and volunteer experiences to develop career-ready graduates.

Let’s go far, together.

High School Accelerated Program

With High School Accelerated (HSXL), high school students take a university class while they are in Grade 11 or 12. The U of R, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, offers a growing selection of dual credit courses. Dual credit courses are U of R courses that cover the content of both the university-level course and corresponding high school course, giving you credit on both your university and high school transcripts. So, when you take a HSXL course for dual credit, you get closer to high school graduation and get university credit! 

A few benefits of HSXL include:

  • Saving time with dual credit courses
  • Easing your transition to university
  • Exploring your interests before you pick your U of R program
  • Networking opportunities as you meet university professors and staff

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