My last post was on Nov. 17. This means two months without a post. After returning from Budapest, I wondered how my learning about math teaching in Hungary could benefit my university and the interactions I have with students at my institution. I have been asked to supervise Mathematics student teachers. What a wonderful opportunity to discuss the creative process of learning and teaching mathematics. I will have an opportunity to help the next generation of teachers find their teaching selves for the purpose of ensuring that all students can learn math well.
I attended the JMM ( Joint Mathematics Meeting) January 10-13, 2018. This is a joint conference of Mathematics Association of America ( MAA) and American Mathematics Society (AMS). Every type of (as the Europeans say) maths was presented. I attended many talks on teaching and learned about math teachers who teach University and K-12 students how to be mathematicians. In fact, Francis Edward Su has amazing writing where he shows his vulnerability around doing mathematics and teaching mathematics. I had no idea that others, certainly more high powered that I, had insecurities about their abilities, but also had the attitude of paying it forward. The paying it forward idea came through loud and clear at each presentation. The important detail is that we do not know everything there is to know about how to teach mathematics, but our passions, interest, curiosity, intentions, and attention to learning will help us move forward from where we are in our teaching.
I was asked by a researcher if I did mathematics for fun. At the time I said, “I have not done the math for a long time.” I decided to do some math because I felt like I was out of the loop. The process of doing math for oneself is important. One should consider doing math, whether it is a puzzle or a theoretical problem or a game because the process of doing mathematics keeps your brain engaged in the process of learning. If you are teaching or teaching teachers to be mathematical, it is difficult to maintain one’s credibility without actually doing math.
I tried a calendar problem from NCTM as my new entry to doing mathematics. I spent time on the problem and found it challenging, but in the end, it helped me understand how to approach my teaching and supervision responsibilities. Teaching is an interactive process, especially in math. I think that without ongoing engagement with mathematics, it is difficult to ask students to do math that is unknown, challenging, and brain expanding. The struggle of the process of doing math is part of why we should continue to do math.
I look forward to working with a group of new student teachers. I look forward to helping them see themselves as mathematicians because math teachers are created, made, not born. Each of the students has decided to become a teacher for different reasons. I am interested in helping them grow because I do math because it is challenging and I never know until the end if the answer is correct. The process and the product are equally a part of doing the math. I hope that I can help this cohort of student teachers to grow to the next level.
I am scared and excited. Making mistakes is part of the process. I hope that our learning together will be productive.