Math Education Concepts

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My Summers, Lately

I had the best summer at camp last year and I’m looking forward to camp this year.  Yes, I was at camp last year, Math Corps Philly Summer Camp, with beautiful people having fun and calling it “work.”  I was the Program Coordinator/Dean of Students for a camp of about 20 middle school students, 10 high school students, and 3 college students.  I primarily took care of paper work and making sure the students ate well and were taken care of (that’s really everyone’s job).

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The highlight of every day was watching the students have fun, bond, learn, and grow by the end of camp.  You would have to be there to fully understand the magnitude of love that was shared throughout the camp.  By the end of camp there were hugs, tears, pictures, tears, and more hugs.  Everyone would be missed until next time.

So now it’s January and I am recruiting students for camp again.  No, this isn’t my pitch for camp recruitment.  I’m just sharing the continued joys I’m looking forward to this year and the years that follow.  But, in case you are interested, feel free to check out our website for pictures, videos and more information about how I spend my summers.


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Thinking Mathematically

When you are passionate about something, you tend to relate almost everything else to that “thing.”  For me, that “thing” is math.  I relate almost everything in my life to math.  Whether it’s my hair (curl pattern, texture, etc.), my dishes (the way they are stacked in my cabinets), the highway (the number of car spaces between my car and the car in front of me), or even the shadow on my dining room wall (it’s a reflection of my light fixture and it’s shaped like a sine curve reflected across the x-axis).

I think mathematically… I count the number of steps it takes to get to the bottom of the stairs, I count the number of tile squares it takes to create the pattern on my bathroom floor, I count the nails in the walls, and I count the number of holes there are in the design of my laundry basket.

So, do I think mathematically because I happen to enjoy math or do I enjoy math because I think mathematically?  Either way, I am passionate about mathematics and mathematical concepts and ideas.  And as much as I try to hide behind my desk (and avoid teaching), I still get excited when having conversations about all things math!  Thanks for the brief conversation S. from NC!


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Concept-Based Learning and Math

Concept-based learning is not a new idea, but one that should get far more attention than what I’ve seen.  I recently found the following definition on “What Is IB?”

“Concept based learning is about big transferable ideas that transcend time, place, situation. Content just focuses on facts while concept focuses on making sense of those facts and the world around us. Content based teaching may not get beyond information transmission/superficial learning. Concepts are a way to organize and make sense of learning.”

When thinking about teaching and learning mathematics, concept-based learning makes the most sense.  Why? Situations change, contexts change, numerical values change, students change, etc.  If a concept is taught and learned, then changing the context or situation will not affect how to apply a concept.

I recently helped a student prepare for the math section of the upcoming SAT.  One question in the practice book showed the graph of a line with no numbers.  The question asked the student to select the equation of the line.  If the student knew the concept of graphs of lines (slopes, y-intercepts, etc.) then they would have been able to solve the problem easily.  They could determine whether the slope was positive or negative and whether the y-intercept was positive or negative.  Without the understanding of these concepts, the student was not able to answer the question.  Once I explained the concepts and details, then the student understood.

Concept-based learning should be a central focus when teaching mathematics.  Otherwise, students will continue to stumble over content when situations and contexts change.

What are your thoughts on concept based learning?


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Math Education Facelift

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (http://www.ct4me.net/about_this_site.htm)

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (http://www.ct4me.net/about_this_site.htm)

Recently education has been seeing major changes as technological advances are happening in our world.  Math education is, of course, impacted by these changes.  Almost gone are the days of traditional lecturing, class exercises, and homework assignments using a chalk board, pencil, and paper.  Many schools are integrating iPad programs, using flipped classroom methods, offering online course, etc.  Of course these are your more affluent schools but it puts pressure on other schools to do the same so their students can be competitive in the workforce.  Where does this leave me, the traditional math educator?

One of two things will eventually happen.  1) I will assimilate or 2) I will leave the industry.  Although my heart is in math education, I haven’t fully embraced the technological advances happening around math education (iPad programs, apps, flipped classrooms, MOOC, etc.).  I have had experience with most of these new methods of teaching, but it has been an adjustment.  My students have also had to adjust to the changes.  Many of them do not like it, but it’s the new direction of math education.

So I am writing this blog because it may be my last on this site.  Although I will always have my hand in math education, I’m not sure the direction I will take as we progress as a world.  Change is difficult, but should be embraced.  I am working on embracing this change!


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Tangible Parting Gifts

I can’t believe the year has gone by so quickly!  It’s already the end of May and there’s only one week left for final exams.  While my time at Salesianum School was short, it will be remembered.  I have memories that will last me a lifetime.

My memories are those that made me laugh, yell, admire, love, and befriend!  Any high school math teacher can relate to the mixed emotions that are experienced in (and out) of the classroom!  It’s not new.  Maybe some day I will share some specifics about those emotions and experiences.

Today, I want to share two tangible gifts I received this year.

1. A t-shirt with my name on the back.  The significance of the t-shirt is that the students labeled me as a teacher who “Keeps it real.”  I gave it to my students straight, no chaser, and they appreciated that.  If they asked questions, I did not sugar coat the answers (whether the questions were about math, friendship, dating, or life).  One of the parents purchased the t-shirts for the entire class (Thank you Mrs. R.).

T-shirt designed by 414-2.

Keepin’ it Real T-shirt designed by 414-2

2. A”K” shaped crepe.  One of my students hosted a French exchange student this year.  Toward the end of the 4th quarter my student earned a 92.2.  He needed a 92.5 to get an “A.”  The exchange student asked me to boost the student’s grade.  I told him I would if he would make me some food using an authentic french recipe.  So they made crepes (the french exchange student used his mother’s recipe – or so he said he did).  It was delicious, so I will deliver on my word.  He was a good student so I would have bumped him .3 points anyway (especially since he missed a few days of school while he was away at France as an American exchange student).

K-shaped crepe made by French Exchange student and his host

K-shaped crepe made by French Exchange student and his host

These are two of the tangible gifts I received this year.  The intangible gifts are too many to name here.  But to name a few I gained friendships, respect, knowledge, love, life-lessons, memories, and so much more.  I will miss my students, but they will always be close in my memories.