September 20, 2019 | 70° F

Rutgers prodigy reflects on 10 year experience taking college courses


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Photo by Courtesy of Ross Brown |

 Ross Brown knew he loved mathematics from a young age, but decided when he was 10 years-old to take a philosophy class at Rutgers because he was also interested in logic. He then took The Theory of Knowledge and Introduction to Number Theory afterwards. 


Last semester, Ross Brown, 20, graduated from Rutgers with a double major in math and computer science. Unlike most students though, he has been taking classes at the University for almost a decade.

Brown enrolled when he was 10 years-old through the Rutgers Summer and Winter program, which he said is very involved in encouraging young students to take courses at the University. His first course was Philosophy 201: Introduction to Logic.

“I wasn't really ready to take math classes at Rutgers at the time. I was still 10, but I knew I was pretty interested in logic, so when I saw Philosophy 201, I decided to take it. I had a lot of fun in that class,” he said.

From a young age, he knew that he loved mathematics and saw it as something he could always enjoy learning. 

“Being exposed to math, being told that I could learn it, and understanding that there would always be more that I cared to learn in that subject, I felt that math presented itself as a subject that I could always be interested in,” he said.

Both Brown and his sibling did extracurriculars related to mathematics and eventually, he also developed an interest in computer science by way of robotics kits. 

Before matriculating to Rutgers as a first-year, Brown took Theory of Knowledge and Introduction to Number Theory, which are both offered by the University. He also took a number of AP courses and courses at his local community college.

The credit, he said, definitely helped. He was able to finish the double major in mathematics and computer science in 3.5 years, which he attributed to taking advanced courses of study beforehand and having a clear plan of what he wanted to do. Brown also had more space to explore and choose classes, even while taking on a double major.

Since he first took Philosophy 201 a decade ago though, Rutgers, Brown said, hasn’t changed much.

“There's been a lot of construction. But Rutgers stays very much the same at a core level. Rutgers has always existed to be a space that does its best to be open to educate anyone who wants to learn.”

While news outlets like the Courier-News have called Brown a prodigy, Brown said the title has more to do with passion than talent.

“All prodigy really means is that you found a subject that you really love at a young age. It's great that I managed to find math at such an early age and to know that I was so enthralled. But, I think that even if you don't manage to find your passion at an early age, as long as you do find it and you keep pursuing it, that's all you really need,” he said.

While in college, Brown said he pursued math and computer science by participating in the Rutgers Undergraduate Math Association, HackRU and HackHERS, as well as reaching out to professors.

“When I really enjoyed a professor's class, I went up and talked to the professor about taking more classes with them or taking graduate classes with them. A lot of the time, even if you don't have the prerequisites for the next class they're teaching, if you're really interested in the subject and you've shown them that you're willing to keep up, they'll let you take high-level graduate classes with them. That’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Some of Brown’s favorite college memories, he said, come from group study settings.

“For my algorithms class, a group of us got together and reviewed the material at the end and it was a lot of fun just hanging out in a group talking about a subject we were all passionate about,” he recalled.

Ever since recently attended a panel on math education, he said, Brown has been thinking about the value of studying in groups.

“There was a study where they analyzed one of the biggest determining factors for people failing calculus and they found that if you study alone, you're much more likely to fail than if you study with your peers and you help each other out. I think that applies to a lot more than just calculus.”

Brown is currently applying for jobs and hopes to pursue a career in computer science.


Aparna Ragupathi

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