Granville High School
Award winning teacher from one of Ohio's premiere high schools
What are the keys to your success as a math teacher?
a. I believe one key is early on in my career I adopted the philosophy that I teach kids via the topic of mathematics. You have to let go of that mathematics is "king" mind-set and use mathematics as a way to help kids.
b. I too believe the sooner you become "comfortable in your skin", the quicker your students will trust you. Making mistakes, saying. "I don't know", and being human is OK. This is all part of establishing mutual respect with your students. The days of the teacher as the authority figure are gone. Teachers need to actively engage students at their level in order to raise their level of understanding. You have to move beyond making a mistake or admitting you don't know being humiliating. We are NOT the keepers of mathematical wisdom. There is one of you and 25-30 of them – they have a better chance of learning from each other than learning from you.
c. The longer I teach, the more I coach in my classroom. Coaching is about setting kids up for success – what a great approach to the classroom. Tests (now End of Course Exams) are like the games and in-class & homework are like practice. Are you practicing the right stuff for the games?
What obstacles have you had to overcome teaching math?
a. The bureaucratic red tape of education. In 25 years in education I have been through 6 curriculum revisions (I had the good fortune of doing an extra one in Michigan). The topics of mathematics probably have only changed by 5% through those revisions, but hundreds of hours of work went into it. Time would be better spent developing lessons of best practice with colleagues.
b. The parental attitudes toward mathematics. "It's OK, I stink at math too." You never hear people bragging about not being able to read!
c. K-6 teaching colleagues that short change mathematics education at the lower levels because they don't like it or they don't understand it. Mathematics makes most K-6 teachers uncomfortable.
Do you have a routine that you follow? (Ex. Daily? Weekly?)
a. Introduction of material takes on multiple forms. i. Notes and examples. ii. Reading with Guided Notes. iii. Lab – an exercise to discover a new concept.
b. Practice takes on multiple forms. i. Problems from the textbook. ii. Problems from teacher created worksheets. iii. Problems from textbook supplemental materials. iv. Problems from gathered resources. v. Problems from the context of labs.
c. Corrections take on multiple forms. Regardless of the avenue for checking homework I use a color coded system for students. Students are permitted to use blue/black ink or pencil for their work. They must use a green pen when in class and are adding information to THEIR work. That information may come from discussions with their partner, discussions with their group, or a class discussion, or teacher explanation. Homework is never collected or assessed without the opportunity to ask questions. i. Traditional – turn assignment in and it is checked for effort and/or correctness. ii. On-line – answer keys to 100% of homework assigned is provided on-line at my web-site via Moodle.(90% of homework is handled this way.) iii. Problems are put on the board by students.
d. Open Homework Quizzes – These are quizzes (4-6 questions) that consist of some of the exact same questions from a collection of homework assignments. The student has their corrected homework out during the open HW quiz. If they have followed the process appropriately they take about 10 minutes transfer their work to the quiz. This is a checks & balance piece to be sure the student keeps up with homework. It is also great documentation for communication with parents.
e. Practice Quizzes – In other words, a review sheet that takes on the format of the actual quiz. The questions are different, but the format is identical. The quiz should be about their mathematical ability, not their ability to decipher the format.
Is there a favorite unit or project that you teach? Could you please describe the topics covered and why it is one of your favorites?
a. In our Algebra II & Physics (AlPh – lower level integrated course) class we do unit on projectiles that covers right triangle trigonometry (SOHCAHTOA & the Pythagorean Th.), obtuse triangles (Law of Sine & Law of Cosine), Vectors, and solving linear and quadratic equations (d = rt, Vf = V0 +at, 0 = 0.5at2 + V0t + S0). The mathematics is excellent and is taught in context with the physics concepts of Vectors, Inertia and Gravity. We are unable to agree upon which class vectors belongs in. The unit culminates with a lab called Bull's Eye where the students calculate the exact position of where a projectile will land.
b. In our Integrated Analysis & Physics (IAP – upper level integrated course) class I do a unit on Finance that covers exponential and logarithmic functions. It covers their numerical patterns, graphical characteristics, and details of the base equations. We identify the numerical patterns of data, model the data with the appropriate functions, and then solve them algebraically to interpolate or extrapolate. An application of exponential and logarithmic functions is Simple Interest, Compound Interest, and Annuity Investments. We solve these problems algebraically and we utilize the Finance APP on the graphing calculator and Excel Spreadsheets to amortize these accounts. Students learn about student loans, car loans, home mortgages, and annuity investments. The unit culminates with the completion of spreadsheets customized to solve problems.
What kind of technology do you use in your classes?
a. Graphing Calculators.
c. Probes such as motion sensors, force probes, microphones, & thermometers to collect data for analysis.
# 6 If you had the power, how would you change the way math is taught at school?
In my 25 years, I have concluded that the students that "get" math can get math in just about any method it is taught. However, for the remainder of the students traditional approaches do not always work. The biggest issue is teaching math without any context. For example, memorizing multiplication facts out of context is sometimes a daunting task. For some students the mathematical pattern and rhythm of multiplication, is not logical. They need contextual clues such as how many eggs are needed for a cake recipe that calls for 3 eggs if you want to make 6 cakes. Fractions also are difficult when it is expected the student will understand how to say add two fractions with unlike denominators by merely memorizing the algorithm for common denominators. The algorithm does not always fulfill the students desire to understand why the algorithm works. That missing piece of understanding why then leaves a gap in the student's ability to move forward and future issues with fractions are probable. These are the same students that want to know why X is so important in math – it's not even a number! Algebra expressed only in formulas with x's and y's approaches being criminal. When a student sees no connection between y=mx+b and d=rt, then we are not serving that student very well. After all, what job description includes: must be able to solve for x? Teach math in context when possible!