Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why math?

Why math? That is the question many math majors get asked. I know that there are many different answers and many different reasons why I want to teach mathematics for the rest of my life. Math is a difficult topic for many individuals and it takes a dedicated student to work on the problems that they will be faced with. For me, I know I enjoy the challenge of finding the answer and how you can have many paths to the same answer. I think that the reason many math majors choose this path, is because we all have found satisfaction in being able to solve challenging problems.
My love for math began with multiplication. There was a game my teacher use to play called “Brain vs. Calculator.” The object of the game was to solve the simple one step problem that was given. If you are the brain you did it in your head and said the answer out loud. If you are the calculator you typed it in and then showed the answer on the screen. I loved playing and I always wanted to be the brain because I could do almost any multiplication or division problem in my head. I know that now in school, teachers are steered away from these activities, because most classrooms have calculators that students can always use. To me, this is a disadvantage to the students because they will have a hard time figuring out a multi-step problems. I’ve seen this firsthand when I tutor high school students in mathematics. A combination of many aspects have made me realize that I want to teach such aspects like: loving seeing students understanding, students having a disadvantage with technology and tutoring these student. This is part of the reason why I  am planning on becoming a high school math teacher. While teaching math in general is my goal I would prefer teaching ninth and tenth grade which is Algebra and Algebra 2 classes.
When I was in high school I had a teacher that made me go from understanding math to loving it. I ended with an understanding of math that I hadn’t known before. Being able to look at a problem and know what steps are needed is a major part of what I learned in high school. this knowledge of made not only helped in my education, but helped me gain more confidence in myself. In high school I was fighting a losing battle, because I started in the special education class in middle school only to be placed in advanced in high school. This made me want to work on my math skills even more. I know that it was because of one man that I was able to do this. He made learning math enjoyable and easy, which the goal when teaching. Hopefully once I have my own class, I can have a the experience of helping a student find their passion in school, like he did for me.
When I hit college I thought that math could not get more fun than the way it was in high school, but things change. I know one thing that has changed for me is the way I attack a math problem. If you had told me freshman year that I would like, or even love Geometry, I would have called you crazy. Then I took Euclidean Geometry and saw a totally different way of thinking and seeing the problems at hand. In my Euclidean Geometry class we worked with axioms and parallel lines. We also worked with shapes and graphs as they rotate. There are many different types of math that have made me see this in college, but Euclidean really made the connection to the visuals.  There are not always light happy topics in my math history. I was told in college that I was not smart enough and that I needed help to continue on with my goal of becoming a teacher. I hope that there are never experiences like this for any other students because it makes it hard to believe you can do the things you once knew you could. I loved math before my teacher and adviser told me I was not good at it. It is because of her that I found a passion to prove what I had known all along. I know now that I will be a teacher and I will have students that I can make a lasting impression on. My hope is that when my students look back at me, they remember the fun things and also some (if not all) the things that they learned. To make learning better for my student I want things to be active and fun, as well as interesting. Not every student will enjoy what I teach them, but at least they will understand the subject matter.   
Since being in college I have had classes varying between many different focuses, but I particularly enjoyed Math 229. In this class we made an exploratory activity to help show that not all math is the same boring topics, but it can be used to make things fun depending on the ways it is presented. There was one activity that was on proofs and how to teach your students about them without getting loaded down with the formal write up. It started as if you were a detective and you had to put together all the pieces of the story to prove how it works, why it works, and how it can be used. This is a ways of teaching that can be used in all levels that won’t only help introduce it, but it will help you write up a formal draft once you found all the missing pieces.When teachers are able to makes their students enjoy what they are learning then it will make it easier to learn. It is an interesting way of teaching when you bring an scenario that makes your student have fun while learning.  I love the idea that you can take a difficult topic and make it something fun that will teach at the same time. College has given me a real desire to teach what I have learned to my students.
In my own classroom I want to have more of a diverse teaching pattern that will show both visual and algebraic forms. I cannot expect my students to understand math the way I do, or even love it the way I do, but I do want to give them the best chance at learning it. To me there is nothing more important than helping students’ with their learning. There are many aspects of math ranging from Geometry and Algebra to Discrete and Applied Math. All of these need the same foundation that are multiplications, division, and pattern recognition. The foundation needs to be solid so that they can continue to learn. Some bad things about high school are that by the time students get there they already have their foundations built. However, it is not always a strong foundation which makes it hard to teach many topics. I hope that when others like me graduate they put an investment in the futures of their students as I plan on doing with my students.
I know that math is right for me because there’s always an answer and you will always have more to learn about it. You can never know all there is to know about a topic because the topics are always changing. Math has never been and will never be a consistent topic because mathematicians will always be finding new and useful discoveries. These discoveries can be applied to topics differently. Considering how math has changed while I have been in school, we went from needing everything memorized to having calculators with you at every step of the way. Also with me you can see that I went from having difficulties in school to being advanced and actually enjoying it. These to me are just some of the reasons why math will always be part of my future. I know that math takes more focus and patience than most students are willing to give it but I hope that I can help my students learn it just the same. I hope that I can show even a little bit of what I have learned, and I believe that I can help students understand new things and have great ideas for future advances in math.