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Topic: better math teachers
Replies: 6   Last Post: Jul 21, 1995 1:18 PM

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LPETERSON@bnk1.bnkst.edu

Posts: 11
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: better math teachers
Posted: Jul 19, 1995 5:05 AM
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Clara Einfeldt wrote: << I have come to believe that our own students do
not
need more math courses to make them better teachers, but they need math
couses taught in a different way. They need to attend math courses that
have professors model the STANDARDS way of teaching. We need to start
thinking of these pre-service teachers as constructivist learners.
The context that students learn math is directly dependent on the
beliefs and attititudes that acquire about not only the mathematics itself,
but also the way math should be taught. Those of us working with
pre-service teachers have to start integrating math content and pedagogy.
If we truly believe that teachers teach the way they are taught, then we
need to take a close look at not only the math classes they are taking, but
the WAY those math classes are being taught.>>


I am currently teaching a course called Topics in Mathematics which is
attempting to do what you recommend. NYS has recently required that all
students entering teaching certification programs must have had at least one
undergraduate college math course. Our graduate school of education had to
decide whether to send our students to another college to meet this
pre-requisite or to offer them a course which we could teach to meet this
requirement in a manner consistent with the Standards. The students who
come into this course (I have had three consecutive sessions to date) are
generally mathphobic. As they describe their math histories, it is very
clear to me that something we have been doing in math education in this
country is not working. These people are the math throw-aways that we have
produced. My challenge is to teach college math to people who think they
can never learn mathematics-who avowedly hate mathematics and they want to
be teachers of children.

There are many challenges to teaching this course as you can imagine,but it
has been one of my most rewarding teaching experiences. We do mathematics.
They begin a process of empowerment to continue learning math, to appreciate
the need for understanding mathematics in our culture and they learn that
math is a creative, enjoyable, useful part of their lives.

I have to hold at bay all the fears I have that I am not teaching them
enough of a traditional college math content, constantly reassuring myself
that the change of mindset about math is uppermost; constantly reevaluating
what it means to be a mathematician, no matter what the math topic under
study. I emphasize strategies of problem solving, discerning patterns,
describing patterns in general terms, connecting math to their own areas of
expertise, seeing the mathematics in the world they live in, making sense of
the things that turned them away from math whether it was trig or quadratics
or Euclid. I try to design experiences that help them put into place the
role of the algorithm in math, the role of definition in math, the role of
proof. They generate algorithms. They define terms. They learn to deal
with frustration in math as a normal part of the creative process: a natural
part of real problem solving. They stop looking for someone to give them the
exact way to get the exact answer. They stop asking me if the answer is
right. They begin to trust their own power to reason. They use materials
that visually expose mathematical relationships. They begin to write their
own theorems as they discern thesel relationships. They read math books (not
traditional math textbooks) and find that they can build their own
understandings through reading about math. They write truly extensively
about their understandings and I respond extensively in writing-guiding them
in the direction they need to go as individuals. . I ask them questions;
they ask me questions. It's a personal dialogue of math learning.

I find I must tailor the course to the individual class and until I meet the
members of the class I cannot design the exact course I will follow with
them. The class evolves as their needs are exposed. I have the above goals
in mind but how I'll achieve them depends on who the students are and what
they come with. It's overwhelming at times. I worry that some of them know
so little math but I think of the alternative: another math course like the
high school courses they had that produced the problems to begin with.
Another course to tell them how stupid they are in math, another course
clipping along at a rapid pace covering a pre-determined curriculum, another
course that perpetuates the belief that someone else has to tell them
mathematics and that they are incapable of generating mathematical
understanding independently. I feel better for about a day and then I start
worrying again.

I would love to hear from anyone who also teaches this population. I'm
interested in maximizing the mathematics learned without losing the
embryonic mathematician in the process.

Lucille Peterson

Lucille L. Peterson
Math Leadership Program
Bank Street Graduate School of Education Tel: 212-875-4665
610 West 112th Street Fax: 212-875-4753
New York, NY 10025 E-mail: lpeterson@bnk1.bnkst.edu





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