Daniel Kane, a 2003 Davidson Fellow Laureate, has been described as one of the best talents in mathematics in decades. At the age of 17, Daniel has proven conjectures posed by leaders in the field and published papers in professional journals of mathematics. And although his talent and his drive are exceptional, Daniel's success also is the product of a successful mentorship.
Ken Ono, Ph.D., a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has devoted a significant portion of his career to mentoring talented, young math students, but Ono says that's not something he set out to do. He began working with high school students after a member of his extended family approached him for help with an especially bright student.
Ono found the experience rewarding. Since then he has mentored about a dozen students many of whom have received national recognition for their work.
Most of those students came to Ono through a local high school program that allows students to attend college courses at UW during the day. Daniel, who took part in that program before graduating last year, sought out Ono because of a shared interest in number theory.
Weekly meetings soon became daily discussions that were largely directed by Daniel with the professor offering suggestions and readings to help his protege along. Ono also helped Daniel publish his first academic paper in a professional journal.
Daniel entered MIT this fall and is taking more advanced courses in mathematics. His professors, says Ono, are probably just now finding out how talented he really is. And in the true spirit of mentorship, Ono is happy to see Daniel move on to other things.
"It's time for Danny to see a wider array of subjects in math and science than just those that I'm interested in," Ono says. "It would be selfish of me to keep pushing my interests."
Ono's advice for teachers? Use your available resources to help exceptionally talented students. Ono says a call to the department head at a local college or university may be all it takes to find an appropriate mentor. He also encourages educators to take advantage of the many services that are available such as mentoring programs, science and math competitions and talent searches -- Ono's particular favorite is Society for Science & the Public.
©2003 Davidson Institute for Talent Development
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