My First Math Win

This is my first year teaching math. I grew up loving math. There's something wonderful about feeling your brain work through and solve a problem. I love that there's a system and a right answer; it's comforting. However, the idea of teaching it has been a bit overwhelming. Not because I'm scared of the content or of making mistakes in front of my students, but because it's seemingly the same process every. single. day. And that makes me bored just thinking about it. I love teaching Language Arts because we're always doing new things AND learning new content.

However, there are a lot of people in the Twitterverse who are good at this whole teaching-math-in-an-interesting-way thing. And this summer I accosted one of them, John Stevens, in hopes of learning a little bit about what it means to be a math teacher. He gave me a ton of resources, including this amazing search engine of math awesomeness by Robert Kaplinsky. And thanks to that, I had my first math win today via YummyMath.

We just finished learning about prime numbers, and I found this amazing thing about cicadas only having a life cycle every seventeen years. (I'm honestly a little disturbed right now that I said something about bugs/science is amazing.) I started by showing my students the video. My class has four boys and one girl. The boys were super into it, and the girl and I were a bit creeped out. But they were interested in what that had to do with math. Well, mildly interested anyway.

And then we got to discussing the questions YummyMath has on the lesson. And it wasn't easy. First, because I'm their English teacher, they had to write in complete sentences. (But math teachers, I beg you, make your students write in complete sentences on this type of thing. You can teach literacy too!) Also, the questions weren't straight-forward. We had to talk through what the question meant and how to explain our answer to it. I'm trying to teach them to work together and at one point I had to tell a kid, "Stop telling me the answer. We need to help everyone understand the question first." And I think that's an important lesson. We need to understand what we're being asked, and we need to do our best to ensure that everyone soars. Further, it's important to be able to explain our reasoning to others, both math and otherwise.

But my love for this activity didn't stop with the intersection of math, science, and English (Although my students did exclaim that this intersection was happening.) I think it was important for us, myself included, to understand how math (like prime numbers) makes a difference in the world. I was getting a bit disillusioned by the worksheets, and this helped me remember math's impact. As a Christian, this has even bigger implications for me because I believe that God created the cicadas (and prime numbers) intentionally in this way. I'm excited to discuss with my students tomorrow about how our understanding of cicadas morphs our understanding of our God and our place in the world.

These are the kind of things I want to see happen in my math class more often. So here's to the first of many wins! Thank you to all who made it possible!