Thoughts from Winter Break

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the way I want my class to operate. For a long time now I’ve wanted to move away from the classical model of lecturing, practicing, and testing. It’s been a rough ride for me because I’ve been at 4 different schools in as many years. However, this year I have a school with excellent resources and a very supportive administration. I also expect to stay.

One thing I tell my students as they’re learning the math I’m teaching (and I’ve mentioned on this website time and time again) is that they’re not necessarily learning to be able to use math in everyday life (unless you’re a mathematician when was the last time you used a logarithm?), because they may not ever use i after the SAT and ACT. Rather, the reason they’re learning is to make connections and structure their thinking. While that works for some students it doesn’t for others.

We also live in a day in age of high stakes testing. A frustrating reality that my colleagues and I have is a lack of student curiosity– students are only concerned with getting correct answers. I can’t speak for other subjects, but an outcome of this attitude in my class is that many students can’t/won’t work unless the mathematics is procedural. Open ended thinking is something they refuse to do.

Now I could just blame the students, or I could blame that many of them are being raised in poverty, or I could blame the testing culture in which we’re raising them, but that would do no good. That’s all out of my control.

This is why I want to change my approach.

Mathematics is a real art/science that was created to solve real problems. The quadratic formula was originated (though not in its final form the way we know it) by the Ancient Babylonians (I think) to measure the areas of L-shaped fields. That’s nice. That’s neat. I can appreciate that. That makes me want to learn more. But that doesn’t usually intrigue my students. They live in the digital age! Why not use technology to drive learning? I don’t mean using technology as a toy on which they happen to learn. I mean actually learn the mathematics of the technology that they’re using.

Computer science is a field that was mostly established by mathematicians, and my school is a project based school. Let the students learn math through technological projects. With the help of pre-established curricula, like code_by_math(), Bootstrap,, and Khan Academy, I aim to develop my own curriculum that marries mathematics and computer science. Perhaps this will help students get through logarithms a little easier.

TLDR: Make mathematics relevant to the learner.

More to come.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts from Winter Break

  1. Musically-inclined lumberjacks in search of a good accompanying cadence might need a logger-rhythm. Nearby, a climate change rapper might use an Al-Gore-rhythm in protest.

    Great mission – creative and critical thinking skills will take students a lot farther than SAT prep!

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