December 14, 2018

Changing Math – One Video at a time

Everyone is born with gifts.  Some people are talented at art, some are great “people” people, some are helpers who give to the needy and feed at the soup kitchen.  We all have gifts and we should use our gifts to help make the world a better place.  My gift, from the time I was a little girl, was to teach.  I can teach anything.  I can learn something one minute and teach it the next.  I have the ability to analyze something and break it down into smaller pieces that make it more understandable for people.

I like to learn, I am good at learning, and I know how to take in information, process it, then I can change it to make it easier for other people  to learn.  There are many things in this world that people learn, some are easy and some are more difficult.  One, however, that seems to come naturally for some and not for others is mathematics.  Often those who are born with the ability to understand mathematics are not also born with the ability to understand that it is not as easy for everyone else.  In fact, this very idea creates one of the biggest problems in today’s education.  Just because you understand something, very well and it makes perfect sense to you, doesn’t mean you are also able to explain that information to other people.  It is likely that you can explain the information to like minded people.  Those that grasp math easily, learn math from math teachers who are “okay” at their jobs.  They may even learn math from those that are “terrible” at their job.

However, we have many people in this world who just don’t understand math as easily as others.  It falls on a spectrum, some might be very lost when it comes to grasping math concepts while others can get there if they have strong teachers.  However, all that fall in the category of the “less mathematically minded” struggle without strong math teachers.

So why do we have math teachers that are great and amazing, some that good, some that are okay, others that are not so great, and some that are down right terrible?  Well, all the math teachers are most likely mathematically minded people.  Who would choose to teach math unless it naturally made sense to them?  However, some of those are just people who can do it easily but don’t have the gift of being able to break it down to easy to understand pieces.  Many don’t even understand that some of their student’s brains don’t work like their’s does.  Some are just in a job to get paid because it is easy for them but they have no passion or natural gift for education.  Hence, we get the large variety of math teachers in our schools.  The real problems happen when you get the not so good or worse, the terrible math teacher lined up with the student who really struggles to understand mathematics.  Math builds on itself, one bad step along the way and you can be turned off from math or left in the dust.  And remember, how many different  math teachers does a student get over their lifetime?  For those mathematically minded, what is the probability that a student will get a great/amazing or good teacher each year, year after year?

One misstep, that is all it takes to send a child off the math track.  Does our country do anything once a child shows that first sign of falling behind?  Not really and certainly not to the extent it is needed if we all had the goal to help all students succeed in mathematics.

So, I have been given that gift of being both mathematically minded and having the ability to see things from the perspective of the learning student.  I am also passionate about education, specifically math education.  I spend a lot of time watching how it all falls apart and wondering if one person can somehow scale to reach millions.  I look at what Khan Academy tried to do and it gives me hope but Khan Academy still falls in the “teaching okay,” category and if the world of mathematics education is going to get changed, it must be changed with exceptional explanations, by people who are truly extraordinary in their gift of mathematics education.  This is not to say anyone (myself included) is perfect but part of doing what is right is listening to feedback and making adjustments when your goal is not being achieved.

It is time, therefore, to start one video at a time with content that teaches mathematics in easy to follow steps that a student can not only learn math from but learn how to study math.  In my next post, I will address the goals of my videos and I always welcome comments and suggestions!

About lynne

Apex-Math was started by Dr. Lynne Gregorio. Lynne has been working in the field of mathematics education since 1989. She received a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from North Carolina State University in 1998. She has taught everyone from Pre-K students to doctoral students. She runs the Apex Learning Center in North Carolina where she tutors students in reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics. She has recently started developing curriculum so that she can reach a broader range of students across the nation. She is married and has 4 children. She is currently homeschooling her oldest son for his senior year of high school.