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The October after his graduation from the College of Arts and Science was arguably one of the darkest months in Jake Ramsey’s life. Teaching math at Nashville’s Maplewood High School through nonprofit organization Teach For America, Ramsey, BA’09, had reached the phase of working in a high-poverty setting that might be labeled “despair.” Less than a third of his students could add or subtract negative numbers, though they weren’t far from his own age. Gang members sorted out grievances with a razor fight. One student—who had taken honors geography—called Florida another country.

The economics major was learning, all too well, the unspoken agreement present in many classrooms and one which affected his ability to teach: “It goes like this,” Ramsey says. “ ‘I won’t make you do any real work, or stress you in any way, and you don’t misbehave.’ ”

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Death-Race-150 A Race to the Death (or Close)

I didn’t finish the race. Forty hours into the Death Race and a mere five hours from the end, I quit. In my four years as a Vanderbilt athlete, I had never failed to make it to the finish line. I had faced disappointment, failed to meet goals, even finished last, but I had never simply stopped.

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g-jaeger-thmb Five Minutes With … Gary Jaeger

Gary Jaeger could probably improve the writing in this magazine standing on his head.

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math-thmb Math to the Nth Power

The next time you pull out your smartphone, take a moment to appreciate the tremendous amount of mathematics that it embodies. Math is involved in converting the sound of your voice into radio signals that connect you to your friends. It is used to create the complex shapes of the fonts in your email messages. In fact, all the phone’s functions are performed by executing basic logical operations on binary code, strings of ones and zeros.

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