The algorithm of Annie Bryan


art by Sarah Blair

Naomi Blair, news writer

Eight-year-old Annie Bryan sat next to her grandfather, writing multiplication problems on a yellow legal notepad. As a person suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her grandfather lost the ability to talk. He communicated to Annie through mathematics. This was their secret language, spoken through numbers and symbols. Bryan, sophomore, said the connection between the pair would last well after his death.

Bryan said, because of the teachings and guidance of her grandfather, she excels in mathematics. Bryan is now in AP Calculus- a class which primarily consists of seniors. She started this advanced path when she was younger.

“[My grandfather] taught me how to multiply fractions,” Bryan said. “He is my biggest motivator. He was probably one of my biggest supporters [in math]. He would be really proud of what I achieved because he wanted to be a high school math teacher, but unfortunately, he couldn’t because of his disease.”

Although Annie said her grandfather was a huge motivator in her life, her mother, Kim Bell, was also an important influence. Bell, a journalist, was not able to help Annie specifically in math because her specialty was not in mathematics, but she supported her in any way she could and pushed Annie to do her very best. Bell said she is proud of the person Bryan has become

“Every time she did her math problems, I would encourage her,” Bell said. “I would make it fun in any way I could and [that] made her want to keep doing it. I am very proud of who she has become”

Bryan started the advanced path in sixth grade, when she was put into Algebra I, an eighth grade course Eric Baker, her sixth grade math teacher at the time, encouraged Bryan to go to a higher level. This was a huge step up from the classes Annie took at her prior school, St. Peter.

“When I first found out she was going [into a higher level class] I was thrilled,” Bell said. “ I thought, ‘Finally, she’s getting teachers [who] are going to motivate her and push her. [St. Peters] had a lot of good qualities. But, what they didn’t do enough of is motivate and push kids and challenge them enough. So, when [Annie] switched to public school and went to Nipher, I was thrilled that the teachers were recognizing that Annie enjoyed math and they worked with Annie.”

In addition to  math, Bryan also excels at volleyball according to her mother. She plays for KHS and it is a substantial part of her life Bryan said.  She said playing volleyball has helped her in math.

“Both sports and school  require a competitive attitude,” Bryan said. “Volleyball really helped push me in schools and school helps push me in volleyball. They compliment each other. Sometimes I get very busy with schoolwork and sports, but I find a way to manage my time.”

Though Annie is in a class with upperclassmen, she does not feel left out. She was able to make friends who support her with math and volleyball. Anna Pruitt, junior, said she is in awe of all the things Annie has accomplished.

“[What]I find most valuable in Annie is her willingness,” Pruitt said. “She is such a talented person. She is literally doing the impossible. I don’t even know how to keep up with her. She is in all of these AP classes and volleyball and track and band and she has a job. She managed to find time out of her schedule to help do math questions. And she is always such a sweet person.”

Bryan plans to take AP Calculus BC, the next level of calculus, her junior year. In her senior year, she plans to take AP Statistics. Bryan hopes to pursue a career in some kind of math when she gets older.

“I hope for her future that she has fun but also challenges herself,” Bell said. “I think Annie would be very bored if she [were not] challenged to be better. I don’t think she has any clue what her occupation might be, but I would like her to do something that she loves.”

Annie said she is proud of where she is now and loves how her life is balanced between volleyball, math and any other extracurriculars she does. Annie said she owes her success to the people around her, her grandfather and her mother.  

“I really like the saying, ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up,” Annie said. “One moment that defines me is when I tried out for a very competitive volleyball team. When I didn’t make it, I was devastated. But [afterward] I worked even harder so I could improve. This related to my success in math because being this advanced wasn’t just handed to me. I worked really hard for this to happen.”