The Prove it! Math Family

Prove it! Math Academy is the culmination of a lifetime of experiences of the Monks family of mathematicians. The academy was founded in 2015 by Dr. Kenneth G. Monks, whose passion for mathematics is shared by his wife and three children — all primary organizers of the summer program.

As parents, Dr. Monks and his wife faced the same challenges that many parents face in finding stimulating mathematical opportunities for their children without having them miss out on the social and recreational aspects of a well-balanced youth. As university professors and coaches of numerous mathematics competition teams, Monks family members have faced similar challenges with their own undergraduate and secondary level mathematics students.

The methods they have discovered and continue to develop have given rise to a substantial amount of success (see below). This highly-qualified, tight-knit family of mathematicians came together to create Prove it! Math Academy in order to pave the way for more eager students of mathematics to make the challenging transition from problems to proofs.

Meet the Instructors

Ken G Monks

Dr. Kenneth G. Monks

program director

Dr. Kenneth G. Monks is the coach of several math competition teams and professor of mathematics at the University of Scranton where he has shared his love of mathematics for the past twenty-seven years. The author of Lurch1 (a word processor that checks your proofs) and coach of the four-time national championship-winning Lehigh Valley ARML team,2 his methods have helped countless students reach their goals.

An experienced coach of middle school teams for MATHCOUNTS and high school teams for HMMT and ARML, he received the Samuel L. Greitzer Distinguished Coach Award in 2010. His students have consistently placed at or near the top in state, national, and international mathematics competitions, and nearly a hundred have gone on to attend MIT, Harvard, and Princeton.

At the college level he was named the University of Scranton CASE Professor of the Year. With a Ph.D. in algebraic topology and numerous research publications on pure and applied mathematics, he has also mentored many student research projects for both undergraduate and high school students. These projects have frequently led to publications for the students in refereed journals, and/or have placed well at the Siemens and Intel STS high school research competitions.

When he is not teaching mathematics, he can usually be found running on remote trails in the woods and mountains of Pennsylvania and Colorado. An ardent distance runner, he has completed numerous marathons and ultramarathons, including the Boston Marathon, several 50 mile trail races, and the Leadville 100 mile ultramarathon.

Kenneth Monks

Dr. Kenneth M. Monks

Dr. Kenneth M. Monks obtained his Ph.D. in mathematics from Colorado State University, specializing in finite group theory and combinatorics. Upon graduating, he stayed in Colorado and began teaching at Front Range Community College. The head of the local Putnam Club, he teaches students advanced mathematics in preparation for the prestigious William Lowell Putnam Exam. He also has extensive private tutoring experience and has tutored students of all abilities — from first-year college students struggling with calculus to high school math olympiad winners looking to learn more advanced material.

The author of several research papers, he published his first article while still an undergraduate. A participant of the Penn State REU and a mentor at the University of Arizona VIGRE program on computational group theory, he is no stranger to summer programs for students seeking the background necessary to do research.

When he is not teaching mathematics, he spends his time lifting weights, cooking, playing the guitar, and running in the nearby Rocky Mountains. He is our local expert on beautiful northern Colorado, and will lead many of the field trips at Prove it! Math Academy.


Dr. Maria Monks Gillespie

Dr. Maria Monks Gillespie holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MIT, a master’s in mathematics from Cambridge, and has recently completed her Ph.D. in mathematics at UC Berkeley, where she specialized in combinatorics, algebraic geometry, and representation theory. As a former instructor at MOSP, coach of the USA CGMO team,3 an IDEA MATH instructor, and a successful participant in math competitions herself, Maria understands firsthand the needs and challenges of talented young students of mathematics.

In addition to her coaching, she has also been a Duluth REU advisor, an AoPS Online Course Instructor, a Girls’ Angle mentor, and a grader and problem writer for proof-based math competitions ranging from USAMTS to USAMO. Author of the popular math blog Mathematical Gemstones, she believes that anyone can learn to appreciate the beauty and rigor of mathematics. She combines her in-person mentoring skills with online projects in order to spread that message far and wide.

Maria began doing original mathematical research in high school, and has published a total of ten research papers in mathematics journals. An undergraduate researcher at MIT, the Duluth REU, and the Madison REU, she won both the Alice T. Schafer Prize and the Morgan Prize for her work, and was a recipient of the Churchill, Hertz, and NSF fellowships.

Beyond mathematics she enjoys singing and playing the piano. An NCAA All-American in cross country, she is also an accomplished distance runner. Her love of the outdoors and fitness has inspired her to run the Boston Marathon and complete several trail ultramarathons, including two 50-mile trail races.

Gina Monks

Gina Monks

Gina Monks is the director of the Math Dimension, the mathematics learning center at Penn State’s Hazleton campus. A faculty member in the mathematics department, she has also served as the President of the Faculty Senate. Her love and passion for teaching, her talent for sharing mathematics, and her friendly, approachable personality have earned her the Teacher of the Year award at her university for four of the past six years. As campus coordinator for the NSF Toys'n More grant, her methods produced the highest gains in students' mathematical learning among all Penn State branch campuses.

Gina’s teaching skills stem not only from her training, but from her experience as a mother. For twenty years before her teaching career even began, she was a stay-at-home mom to her three children. When she is not helping students with mathematics, she is often found running, having run the Boston Marathon three times and also completed several trail ultramarathons.

Bryan Gillespie

Bryan Gillespie

Bryan Gillespie holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science from Penn State where he graduated first in his class. Currently a mathematics Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, his specialities are matroid theory and commutative algebra. He has taught undergraduate courses at Berkeley for the last six years and was recently awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award. He also volunteers at local mathematical events for youth, such as the Julia Robinson Math Festival and the Stanford Math Circle, and he tutors privately on the side.

In addition to being an accomplished mathematician and teacher, Bryan is an accomplished musician and a skilled programmer. He can both sing and play a diverse range of instruments, including the saxophone, flute, and bass.


Jacob Wachspress

Jacob Wachspress is an undergraduate student at Princeton University pursuing a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

Jacob competed on the Pennsylvania team at the national MATHCOUNTS competition in eighth grade and was the 2016 winner of the MATHCOUNTS alumni scholarship. He was a member of the Lehigh Valley ARML team for six years, including two years as the team captain, where his leadership and organizational skills helped the team to two top 8 finishes nationally. He was a four-time champion and is now the problem writer for the Bucks County High School Math League. He is experienced in math education, from private tutoring to doing homework help at the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton to working as a math teacher on a 9-month service program in Bolivia. There, he taught at an alternative K-12 school almost exclusively through math games and discovery activities.

Aside from mathematics, Jacob is an avid sports fan. He enjoys playing baseball and golf and can often be found monitoring his way-too-many fantasy football teams.


Keenan Monks

Keenan Monks is a recent graduate of Harvard with a Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Secondary in Computer Science. A "Math 55er", Keenan has taught other Harvard undergraduates through private tutoring for math courses and through serving as a Teaching Fellow for several computer science courses. In 2014, he received a Derek Bok Distinction in Teaching Award for his work as an instructor in an intro-level computer science course aimed at teaching proof-based mathematics to aspiring computer science majors.

Keenan was the Pennsylvania State MATHCOUNTS champion in eighth grade, honorable mention at the Shing-Tung Yau research competition, and sixth-place national winner at the Intel Science Talent Search. Additionally, in a more collaborative setting, his leadership helped the Lehigh Valley ARML team win three consecutive national championships. He currently works as a software engineer at Facebook.

As a participant at the Duluth, Emory, and Madison REU summer programs, he has gone on to publish no less than six mathematical research papers on topics ranging from the Collatz Conjecture to the theory of supersingular elliptic curves.

Outside of mathematics, Keenan enjoys working out in various ways including weightlifting and dance. An experienced musician, he enjoys music production, singing in an a cappella group and producing original EDM tracks in his spare time.

1. With Dr. Nathan Carter of Bentley University.
2. With Dr. Donald Davis of Lehigh University.
3. With Alison Miller and Inna Zakharevich.