When it comes to the difficulty of getting students excited about math, George O’Neil of Plano should know as well as anyone. He’s been teaching it for nearly 40 years. He says the problem starts with our culture.
“If there was a greater emphasis, even from society in general, towards those being just as important to us, rather than maybe who won American Idol or whatever. Maybe that we start somewhere nationally recognize people that go into those areas, as opposed to pop culture type of things.”
Teacher Mike Barron agrees with O’Neil but says the problem is even bigger. He teaches in the Waco area and says not enough emphasis is being put on school in general.
“Just education in general is not valued the same way today that it was.”
Barron knows algebra and trigonometry simply can’t compete with the excitement of Facebook or the latest video on YouTube. So I asked him how he makes math interesting to his students.
“Oh, I do all kinds of things. I sing to them. I tell jokes. I tell stories.”
Stamps: “Do they work?”
“Most of the time. Well, I don’t know.”
Sharon Miles teaches in the Corpus Christi area. Last year, all of her students passed the math portion of the TAKS test –something she’s very proud of.
“I really care about all of my kids, every single one of them, and I take pride in having them learn as much as I can, and if some of them aren’t getting it, I go back over stuff.”
Being a good and interesting teacher isn’t easy, especially with a subject like math. That’s where Tricia Averkiades comes in. She an instructional coach who works with teachers the same way a trainer works with an athlete. She talked about the key to making subjects like math interesting.
“You have to give every topic its purpose for later on down the road. So how would they use this in a wide variety of careers, so that they can see the purpose and when they see the purpose, they’re more willing and excited to learn.”
Mike Barron says you also have to make the students believe they can learn the material.
“Some of these kids that by the time we get them in middle school, junior high, high school, they have been told basically that they’re stupid and that nobody expects anything of them, and that’s unfortunate, I think that may be part of the problem.”
The Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teachers ends on Friday.
The teachers say they liked math because they were always good at it. Their goal is to take students who aren’t good at it and make them better.