I began teaching in 1990 with a lively class of first graders. Over the next ten years I taught a variety of elementary levels trying to follow the school curriculum and finding that students' experience of math was either learning to follow algorithms or playing with stuff. It wasn't easy to help them make the bigger connections between the concept and the algorithm or between concepts.
Working at the Math Forum gave me the opportunity to think about what K-8 math education could be. I imagined and observed opportunities where math learning could be fun, meaningful, challenging, empowering, enriching, powerful... It was exciting to work with people online and face-to-face who loved thinking about how kids learn and how teachers, technology, and projects can help improve opportunities for individual students, as well as entire schools and districts.
I came back to the classroom after four years at the Math Forum to think deeply about how to help kids learn math better. So far this current adventure into teaching has led me to trying to make math more real for students. Making math real means at least three different things: connecting it to the real world, helping students to see that the mathematics they are learning is important, and making the math concepts, algorithms, and procedures tangible.
I have dabbled in teaching college students at Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, and Swarthmore College, and I plan to do that more regularly in the future. I am concerned that too many future elementary teachers have either a dislike for or a lack of background in mathematics. I'd like to help pre-service teachers enter the profession with more of a passion to help kids problem-solve and reason mathematically.
As for the Math Forum... if there were more than 24 hours in a day, I'd be spending a lot more time solving all of the Problems of the Week, reading the Dr. Math archives, and talking about math with teachers in T2T.
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