Friday, January 15, 2010

Encouraging things

I've been feeling pretty discouraged about teaching Geometry. It's not my favorite sub-area in math, and teaching proofs is even less fun than it sounds. The congruence theorems are not applicable to real life, and the kids know it, so sometimes their negative energy brims over despite their niceness, and I feel terrible knowing that it's a reflection of my mediocre lessons.

Well, I'm keeping a positive outlook on it, at least. Teaching something the first time around is always difficult, because you are laboring just to get through the material. It is never until Year 2 that you can actually pick-and-choose from all the topics to make everyday the most fun / efficient that they can be. (I am, obviously, trying to make the class as lively as possible, in the meanwhile. But, it's not so easy when you are working with no Geometry experience under your belt.)

So, it was really nice recently when I got a Facebook message from an old student of mine, telling me that he is absolutely kicking butt in all his high-school math classes because of me. That made my day.

Then today, another encouraging message came from one of my current colleagues. I had taught my Algebra2H kids to sing the Quadratic Formula Song (set to the tune of Pop! Goes the Weasel), and had given them a homework assignment of singing to -- and getting signed off by -- another teacher or staffer on campus. One of the teachers emailed me and told me that he loved the singing, and that one of my kids told him that I am "the best teacher."

Goodness. I have to always remember that teaching is a craft, and that it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. That's about 7 years of 8-hour work days, for a teacher of 186 school days per year. I still have ways to go, and besides being patient with the kids (which is my new goal for 2010), I should also be more patient with myself.


PS. I found a really fun visual demo of math with complex numbers when I was researching on the web: in this link, click on "Dimension_6_Engl" in the chapter links on the right-hand side if you wish to check it out. :) It's SUPER FAB!

Addendum July 2, 2010: I created a transformation worksheet for complex numbers out of the concepts in the video -- and it was a hit with the kids! Afterwards, they really understood why multiplication of complex #'s is a rotation, why addition/subtraction of complex #'s is a translation, etc. Here are the thumbnails for the file (it has 2 pages), and you can leave a comment if you want the original word doc.


  1. Funny, I always thought geometry was the most real-life applicable kind of math. Like you can measure things in real life and they follow all the geometric theorems.

  2. Aww! Don't say your lessons are mediocre! Or, if you're going to say it, then say it proudly with the realization that mediocre = good enough for now, and not mediocre = total failure. (I'm reading a book on perfectionism right now, and a bit part of the book is how perfectionists tend to think in all or nothing terms, either you're a rockstar or you're a failure at life, and there's no in between.)

    I wish I'd known about that math website when I was TA-ing - it would have been super helpful when I was teaching about polar coordinates!

  3. Ames: Thanks! That was a good food-for-thought. :) PS. Your girls' reunion picture was so cute! I'm glad you had a good trip home.


    Laurel: Yes... but so what? Most kids, unlike you and me, are less than impressed when a theorem turns out to be true. And moreover, they are then asked to use those theorems to look at/analyze abstract Geometric drawings (classic Geometric proofs), which immediately takes away any notion of the real-world applicability of those theorems that they might have held previously.