Academy math faculty Mitch Krulewich takes heart in watching students discover the joy of overcoming a difficult math problem. The reward of solving numerical challenges is what inspired his own journey in math. Specializing in geometry honors, calculus BC, and advanced pre-calculus, Krulewich likes dispelling the notion that math is “hard.” Instead, he sees it as an engaging puzzle with thrilling rewards. Beyond the classroom, his gratification of solving challenges shines through his love of crossword puzzles, games and learning languages.
Where did you grow up and how did your path lead to your 30-year career in teaching?
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. My father worked as an engineer and my mother was a teacher. I grew up in various places on the mainland, before graduating from high school in Arkansas. I went to college at Northwestern University, outside of Chicago, initially to study music and film, but found the challenge of my higher math classes so engaging and rewarding that I changed my major. I went to graduate school to become a math professor, which I realized is more about being a mathematician than an educator. I discovered teaching and how much I enjoyed sharing my passion for math through a nonprofit that trained people with a math background to teach lessons in elementary school. Eventually, I moved to Hawai‘i after enjoying traveling here frequently. I taught at schools in the islands for about 10 years before being hired in 2014 at Punahou to teach higher level math courses, which I enjoy.
What is it about math that interests you?
I avoid calling math “hard.” Math is a puzzle. It’s challenging, but there’s an excitement about getting through the challenge. It’s inspiring to give students challenging material, help them master it, then see them experience the reward of figuring it out for themselves.
I love puzzles, like crossword puzzles. I do the New York Times one every day. I’m addicted to it. I play scrabble online with friends and cribbage. I also love languages. I studied French and Spanish in school and am now teaching myself Dutch, much to the delight of locals when I visit Amsterdam.
People don’t realize how mathematical these puzzles, games and even languages are. It’s all about recognizing patterns, analyzing and arranging. For me, they all bring together my analytical math brain and also my love for language.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve been living a car-free lifestyle since my 40s, when I decided it was my goal to live without a car. Now I bike, which is better for the environment and for me both physically and mentally.
I’m also a vegan. My go-to recipe is a flatbread pizza topped with hummus and veggies. Like biking, it’s better for the environment if we consume less meat, and as a side benefit, it’s better for my physical health. However, I’m happy to carpool with a friend to go hiking, then go to the beach, and be home by dinner – something really satisfying about our O‘ahu home and a perfect outside day for me.
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