While working at The Math Forum, I am taking night classes at Drexel for my Math Education major. This summer I am taking Education 528, The Cultural and Historical Significance of Mathematics, where I am learning about how math reflects and influences the ideas and movements in culture, history, biography, and philosophy. My teacher has introduced me to many math topics that originated in ancient cultures and developed over thousands of years into what our modern math is today. She shows us how we can take these ancient math topics, such as magic squares and the Mayan number system, and teach them to our students in the classroom as introductions to higher math topics. I was also able to research a famous mathematician for my biography project and I chose Grace Murray Hopper, one of the world’s first computer programmers. She was a remarkable woman who was both a beloved teacher and a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. She was daring, curious, determined, and confident, and an inspiration to all women who are pursing a career in math or science.
Being a part of The Math Forum has been very beneficial to me as I have been completing this course over the past few weeks. As one of our final projects, Gina, another Co-op at The Math Forum, and I are required to present a lesson on an ancient math topic and provide an activity for our classmates to complete. I remember coming across Tangrams one time while perusing through some of the Problems of the Week on The Math Forum website. I stumbled upon this topic again when I was looking through Suzanne’s Mathematics Lessons on the site and read a little bit of history on this Chinese puzzle game. The Tangram is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven shapes: two large, one medium, and two small triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. These shapes are called tans and are put together to form pictures and shapes. Suzanne’s website contained numerous lessons on how to use Tangrams to introduce geometric shapes, symmetry, congruency, and even area to ones students. Gina and I were able to take ideas from these lessons and create a PowerPoint that teaches about the history of Tangrams, as well as three activities in which our classmates will solve tangrams, create them, and find the area of their puzzles. Suzanne even gave us plastic tans so that we would have manipulatives to use for our lesson. Having The Math Forum as a resource for school and my future classroom is definitely one of the best parts about working for this excellent educational website. I know I will be leaving here with a more open mind on how to teach math to my students!