Commitment to Relevance

The start of school is always a magical time for me. Faculty are happy and refreshed, students have grown so much and are quick to give hugs and smiles, and everyone has a chance for a fresh start. For me, it is a time to set new goals, try new things and approach my 21st year of teaching with renewed enthusiasm.

This year, I am teaching two courses- Algebra 1 and Geometry and, while my curriculum includes some specific technology projects to support and enhance the curriculum (a blog shared by both classes, glogs, student produced videos and fake Facebook pages of mathematicians), my primary goal for this year is RELEVANCE. How can I make the math I am teaching relevant and meaningful to my students?  How can I answer the question they ask so often: “when am I going to use this?”

I began both classes with this video and we had a great discussion surrounding it. Who needs math? Why? Careers you wouldn’t think of…  I am armed and ready with real-world examples solving algebraic equations, simultaneous equations, graphing systems, etc. Many of the examples are coming from a new book I am exploring for next year. I will supplement with math in the news, nature, music, art and careers.

Critics of the NYTimes article, “How to Fix Our Math Education” believe that Math = Practical + Beautiful. I don’t disagree with that completely, but how can students be “harmed” by providing examples or connections? Isn’t that what we do in literature or in history or in science?  Isn’t that what pulls it all together? Rare are the 9th and 10th grade students who see the value behind studying a quadratic function for its own sake.

So, with three days under my belt, I am on my way! I am hoping that putting it in writing keeps me honest and forces me to do the best I possibly can. I’ll update you along the way…

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