Humans of Harker: Logic and levelheadedness

Grace Huang (12) applies analytical thinking to build relationships


Arely Sun

“The analytical thinking skills that I’ve learned from taking classes and practicing math have helped me to analyze the world in a more theoretical way. Sometimes when I see things in the world, I can attribute [them] to different theoretical ideas,” Grace Huang (12) said.

A gray and white pile of fuzzy floral fabric squirms on a beige couch in English teacher Christopher Hurshman’s room. Peeking from the soft edge of the blanket, Grace Huang (12) groggily sits up from a nap, the tips of her black hair brushing over her gray zip-up hoodie.

Although her inhabitance of the couch may indicate a semblance of laziness, beyond the sleepy senior is a diligent, compassionate sister and a mind filled with ideas and a passion for STEM.

Grace started competitive math at an early age, but as she grew older, she began to prioritize problem-solving over the competitive aspect of the subject. She found enjoyment in the process of discovering the right approach to a difficult problem as opposed to solely calculating the answer.

“I think it’s that process of you trying something and maybe it doesn’t work, but then you try something else and maybe that doesn’t work, but now you’ve learned that those two paths don’t work so you find some other path of a solution,” she said. “Eventually, being forced to be creative with your methods of approaching problems and then eventually find the solution by being creative is something I find really fun.”

Her passion for the problem-solving aspect of math led Grace to pursue another similar interest: computer science. She first began programming in eighth grade, and since then, she has delved deeper into the subject by taking various courses. For example, the Neural Networks course taught her the inner workings of AI and how neural networks learn while the Expert Systems course gave her insight into the precursors of modern computer systems. Grace applies the analytical thinking skills she learned from math to coding.

“Computer science is just an extension of math in that you apply [the same methods of thinking]. I really like coding something and seeing it work, and even if it doesn’t work, going back to find what’s wrong with it is also exciting although tedious at times,” Grace said.

Both math and computer science have helped Grace develop methods of systematic thinking that she has applied to everyday occurrences and her outlook on the world.

“The analytical thinking skills that I’ve learned from taking classes and practicing math have helped me to analyze the world in a more theoretical way. Sometimes when I see things in the world, I can attribute [them] to different theoretical ideas,” she said.

Close friend Sana Pandey (12) appreciates Grace’s logical mindset when it comes to helping her friends with daily struggles. Grace treats these problems in a mathematical manner, using well-thought steps to solve them.

“Her way of approaching any problem is really systematic, maybe because of STEM. Whenever I’m coming to her with a problem about my general life or if I need advice or something, she approaches it as if it’s a math problem, and she [considers] what’s the most clear-cut way to deal with all the different variables,” Sana said.

Grace’s passion for working with numbers and different types of problems led her to take economics, a subject that she has continued to pursue by participating in the National Economics Challenge and taking Game Theory. She considers economics to be a formative learning experience as it opened up a whole new topic that incorporated many of her interests.

“I find the concepts covered in econ[omics] to be really cool because they use math to approximate real-world trends and how small things change the market – like interest rate can change the entire scope of the economy and how in game theory you can analyze games and assign numbers to situations you wouldn’t even think of as games,” Grace said.

She recalls an assignment about a real-life application to a concept in Game Theory where she chose to connect using threats with her 6-year-old little brother Vincent’s techniques of persuading her to play with him. Grace jokingly claims that his tantrums often end in her playing with him, causing her to waste her time.

When her parents are busy with work, she takes care of Vincent by making him dinner, getting him up in the morning and getting him ready for bed. These responsibilities have taught her valuable lessons such as time management and caring for others.

“It’s helped me realize how much work goes into taking care of other people and how much dedication you need to actually be effective in almost raising someone, but my parents still do a lot of the work. I think part of that is also finding ways to manage my time to make sure I’m not too focused on him and forget about the things I have to do,” Grace said.

Grace translates her compassion towards Vincent into caring for her peers. Another one of her close friends, Nerine Uyanik (12) recognizes Grace’s dedication to building and bolstering relationships with her loved ones.

“Grace is a source of much of Vincent’s happiness, and that’s because she’s an amazing older sister. She’s an amazing daughter. She’s an amazing friend. Grace is diligent, not only in her studies but also in her relationships, which she takes seriously and wholeheartedly,” Nerine said.

Although English teacher Christopher Hurshman’s impression of Grace while he taught her in sophomore year was quiet and unassuming, he has gotten to know her character more as she and her friends started spending their free time in his classroom. When asked about iconic anecdotes of Grace, he responded that there wasn’t one particular instance that exemplified her key qualities and instead that moments that showcase her positive traits occur frequently due to her steadfast personality.

“She is consistently the same person every day, and because she’s that way, she comes across as someone who has a really strong sense of identity and integrity,” he said. “But it also means that there aren’t a lot of huge exciting changes that are happening from day to day with her or there aren’t these hilarious anecdotes involving her except for the way that she just is every day, which is this clever and incisive person who doesn’t make a really big show of herself.”