On April 1st, Dr. Lars Peter Hansen, 2013 Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, dropped by for a short visit at Whitehorse High School and Montezuma Creek Elementary, both in Montezuma Creek, Utah. At the high school, he spent time with two math classes discussing probability and uncertainty. He also encouraged the students to stay in school. Lars explained that he struggled in high school, but really found his way while attending Utah State University.
At Montezuma Creek Elementary School, Lars spoke to a combined class of 5th and 6th graders. He explained that his field of econometrics is a combination of economics, math, and statistics, and that mathematics is an important subject to study and learn. It is important in all walks of life.
The week before his visit to Montezuma Creek, Lars was lecturing at a university in Moscow, Russia. Just prior to coming to southern Utah, he was consulting with students at California Institute of Technology in Southern California. Since receiving the Nobel Prize, Lars has done a lot of traveling.
There was a big difference in the reception between the Navajo elementary school children and the high school students. The former seemed more engaged and more eager to learn. There were several questions after Lars’s presentation, not all relevant, but interesting ones none the less. One of the children even asked Lars for his autograph. The high schools students were more distracted, and seemed to have lost much of their inquisitiveness.
A recent NASA study indicates that the best time to get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is while they are young, in the later years of elementary school. This would certainly seem to be true in the Navajo Nation. (Granted this is an extremely small sample size.)
Lars flew into Durango, Colorado. From there it is a 45 minute trip through the mountains and an hour trip through the desert to get to the small oil town of Montezuma Creek.
Lars attended high school in Logan, Utah, and then went on to college at nearby USU. While at USU, Lars developed his interest in mathematics and economics, and suddenly became an excellent student. After getting a PhD at the University of Minnesota, he eventually took a job at the University of Chicago where he is currently the Director of the Becker Friedman Institute.
Note: For more on Lars’ visits to elementary schools click here.
Note: For information on a NASA visit to Navajo schools click here.