Rex Elliott

Product Operations Director

Nike, Inc.

Was there a math teacher, project or lesson that made a big impact on you while in school? What got you interested in math?

Mr. Paul Camp was my 3rd and 4th grade math teacher. He spent the summer between those years creating a separate math workbook for me because I had exceeded my grade level and he wanted to give me more of a challenge in math. I will never forget him for that.

What did you enjoy most about math while in school?

Math was always at the same time old and new. The fundamental principles of math never change and the most basic of concepts are relevant to higher levels of math. At the same time, there is an endless level of complexity and applications for math in the classroom and the real world.

Describe some of the ways in which you use math to do your job. Which math skills are most important to your job? 

There are many ways in which math is important to my job and I’ve listed some here for your reference:

a. Budget management – planning and maintenance of office expenditures that comply with local labor laws and accounting principles as well as company policies

b. Product Costing – it’s an art more than a science to translate cost drivers including labor, material, and overhead into a unit price for the product we purchase from factories

c. Organization Planning – related to budgeting, it is important to understand organization needs, the strategic goals of the organization, and have a logical method of mapping the two together

d. Workload management – we estimate the time required to perform specific jobs and the number of projects we will be responsible for to determine job assignments and balance workload across a team of dozens of people

What could teachers have done to make math more enjoyable/useful for you while in school?

Looking back on my math education, it became less interesting from junior high school and beyond because it became more of a memorization exercise rather than a challenge to my own logical thinking skills. We would be taught a concept, given example problems, and be asked to repeat the process with test questions similar to the examples we learned from. That was boring and the only way to make it challenging was to ignore the textbook and try to take tests cold.

If you had the power, how would you change the way math is taught at school?

Math has to be taught in either a game or an application format. It is more fun to compete with other students to solve a problem faster or more cleverly than to be bogged down with iterative homework unless the homework if preparation for such a competition. The application of math is also fascinating. For example, teaching students how a surveyor does their job or a chemist, a business man, or other professional to not only demonstrate math’s usefulness but provide inspiration to pursue careers of interest.

Anything else that you would like to share?

Traditional classroom learning is going to be augmented or replaced by more creative teaching methods because a one size fits all approach to teaching any subject is lest optimal to customized teaching of an individual or groups of like-minded individuals. I think the approach you are taking has a lot of promise if it can make the subject fun and applicable to students’ lives today or their future careers.