The Mathematicians Project: Mathematicians Are Not Just White Dudes

What is the Mathematicians Project?

The Short Version:

  • We as math teachers tend to only talk about white male mathematicians.
  • Most of my students don’t look like that, and thus, they have few mathematical role models they can identify with.
  • Take 10-15 minutes a week to research (read Wikipedia, that’s all you need) a not-old-dead-white-dude mathematician, and then take 5 minutes in class to tell your students about them.  Include a picture. It’s worth it, I swear.

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How We Welcome Students

My musing, a blogpost, and an Invisibilia episode have lead me to think seriously about the importance of how I welcome students and families. 

A couple weeks ago, I posted this on twitter:

weight

I had been thinking about a student of mine. A previous teacher had mentioned that his questions were “interesting”, which lead him to stop asking questions. I’m sure the teacher meant well by the comment, but it made our student think that he was asking the wrong questions. So he stopped.

I wonder how many times I have done that.

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Multiplying is Not a Pre-requisite for Fractals

This is obscenely long. Read the short version if you don’t have much time. Read the rest if you like.

The Short Version: There is a lot of complicated math in the world. We tend to venerate that math for its complexity, and not tell our students about it because they’re not ready to understand it yet. This is terrible. One of the worst things we can ever tell our students is, “You haven’t learned ____ yet, so you can’t learn ____.” We throw up our hands in frustration when our middle schoolers don’t know multiplication facts. “How will we ever teach linear functions?”, we cry.

I am totally guilty of this. It takes a leap of faith to trust that a student struggling with division can work with rational numbers. Assuming they can’t means math is sequential. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. Sure, prime factorization helps me factor polynomials, but what if you happened to start with factoring polynomials. Is that impossible?

Sending the message that the second step is unattainable until you’ve reached the first is a problem for two reasons:

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Math Identities, Part II: Math Teacher

I mentioned in my last post that I consider this my 4th year of teaching, not my 6th. I did teach, full time, at a school in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) for 2 years. I busted my butt. Worked 24/7. Made myself sick I worked so hard. Had regular emotional breakdowns. But I can’t think of that time as time when I really grew as a teacher. Continue reading

Math Identities, Part 1: Me (& also tracking stinks)

Dylan Kane gave me permission to be selfish, and I’m taking him up on it. This one is cathartic for me. 

I have apparently developed a bit of a reputation as someone who gets excited about math.

It’s true. I do. At “Math On a Stick” last year, I was so happy, that some of the other volunteers were afraid of me. I regularly burst into applause when I see a beautiful proof. My students admonish me by saying that most 31-year olds go to clubs that don’t start with “math” on Friday nights.

This has not, however, always been the case. Bear with me. (Or stop reading, mathy emotional baggage coming up.) Continue reading