Date: Apr 21, 1995 5:00 PM Author: Karen Dee Michalowicz Subject: Math is universal Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to share with you an incident that happened in my 7th

grade algebra class yesterday. The class is a class of 23 very

able mathematics students whom I love teaching. Anyway, I have

had a German exchange student for the past week in my class.

Anna is actually in 8th grade in Germany but elected to stay in

the seventh grade classes with the girl that is her hostess in

the states.

Yesterday, one of my boys just noticed that there was someone

new in class (isn't this like seventh graders). And, he was so

surprised that she was German. And, was she really doing our

mathematics? Did they have the same math in Germany? Could

math really be universal? I could not believe this very bright

young man's questions. However, I began to think. How many of

our students really do realize that math is universal? Jonny

taught me a lesson yesterday, a lesson I will not forget. I

will now emphasize how, no matter where you go, and what

language you use, variables are variables, linear equations are

linear equations, etc. We cannot assume our students realize

this. I thought my historical references helped students to

understand that math is a universal language. Obviously, Jonny

didn't get the message. I have learned I must be more specific.

I have been lurking during the conversation about 5th grade

enrichment activities. I've enjoyed everyone's comments. What

I have found through my many years of teaching is that students

remember their hands-on activities. They remember what they

discover. Topological concepts are not too complex if they are

presented at the appropriate developmental level. I often tell

my students that mathematics is like learning to read.

At first you have baby books with a small vocabulary. Those who

have particular interests investigate big books with rather

sophisticated vocabulary and topics. New books with new ideas

are always being written. Some people will read little and

read easy books. Others will read much and the levels may be

very difficult. It isn't intellegence so much that determines

who will be the great readers (although it helps); it is

interest. Now, I realize that this is very simplified but my

students seem to understand. When I do topology with them, I

tell them that topology is a big, big field. I'm only giving

them the baby book. As they get older and know more about

mathematics they will be able to read the more sophisticated

books. This is just my idea I wanted to share with you all.

I find my students very interested in topics in mathematics

other than basic computational skills. I've discussed Zeno's

pardox and they love it. They even develop their own.

Even years later they come back and tell me the remember about

Zeno. Again, it is these celebrations of mathematics that are

not boring that stay with and interest our students. Oh, dear,

I'm sounding dogmatic. sorry..

Anyway, I am delighted with all your ideas. We have a rich

resource on this list!

--

Cheers!

Karen Dee

Math History Lives!

Karen Dee Michalowicz VQUEST Math Lead Teacher/Trainer

Upper School Mathematics Chair Virginia Quality Education

The Langley School in Sciences and Technology

1411 Balls Hill Rd, McLean, VA l994 Presidential Awardee

22012 USA

703-356-1920(w)

Fax: (703) 790-9712