Guest Post: Reformers in Math Education

Today’s guest post comes from Madison Hodson, an instructor at AcerPlacer who studies mathematics/statistics education at Utah State University.

In this article I would like to highlight a few educational reformers. I would also like to discuss a brief history of education and the impact that it had on mathematics and mathematics education.

Johann Pestalozzi was an educational reformer of his time. He believed that all children deserved a fair chance to attend school and be educated. He tailored the curriculum to meet the needs of each of his students, especially the underprivileged and poor children. Johann’s influence was not limited to the 1700’s alone; today we have education and teaching criteria similar to Johann’s approach to education. Examples of Johann’s influence in today’s education include: an emphasis in children taking an active role in their learning, having a well-rounded education system, and a student-centered teaching approach. Johann also emphasized that school and home are both places for learning to take place and that parents and teachers must work together to make that happen. He also introduced the focus on not only what subject is being taught, but how that subject is being taught. These are just of few of the valuable contributions made by Johann that influence our educational system today.

Another reformer that I would like to mention is Franz Gall. Prior to Franz Gall’s work, the world believed that the intellect and all learning came through the heart and the soul. Franz Gall changed that belief to the knowledge that is still held today- that learning and intellect stems from the brain. With this newfound discovery, Gall divided and categorized the brain into separate sections that each serve a specific purpose. Gall’s findings are helpful in teaching mathematics because we can target specific concepts or learning ideas that engage various parts of the brain. We can also recognize that everyone’s brain works a little differently, meaning that individuals learn differently. As math teachers, there are many methods and examples that we can use to convey the same concept to our students. We have the resources and knowledge available to us to target specific teaching methods that will yield the best long term results.

As educators, we have the responsibility to not only help our students understand how to solve complex math problems, but also to teach them how these concepts can be useful and applied to real-life problems. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are indispensable assets that all individuals must learn in order to succeed. Math teachers are fortunate because we can combine our curriculum with applicable examples that will give students useful skills for life.

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Teachers and Math: A Guest Post

Today’s guest post is by Alan Liddell, one of the lead instructors for AcerPlacer in Ogden, Utah, a private company that teachers college math courses for its students. I asked him to write this post because of one response on an informal survey I conducted where one teacher said that they didn’t use any math because they didn’t teach it.

As a math teacher, one would think that it is obvious that I would use math in my everyday life for my career. While it is true that I do teach college-level math on a daily basis to students, my uses of math go far beyond the classroom.

For instance, I use math for statistical analysis for the company I work for. I am in charge of calculating the percentage of student test out rates and to perform statistical analysis to determine lead causes of percentage results and to predict future percentages based on previous years. I am also required to use pivot tables to compare different sets of data to determine causality and possible relationships between them.

In addition, I create spreadsheets in Google Sheets and Excel that require algebraic expressions to be inputted to auto-populate cells and columns. Although the language of Excel and Google Sheets maybe be different than traditional math, the concepts are the same.

I also use math to quickly number crunch various menial tasks around the office. I may have to make copies of a certain homework packet, so I will use mental math to determine how many copies to place into the copier queue.

As a final anecdote, I used the Pythagorean Theorem to help me at the post office for work. I was tasked with picking up boxes to ship our books to online students, and when I got to the post office, they had various sizes to choose from. The one I thought might work was a box that had the proper height, but had width and depth dimensions of 8.5 in and 1.5 in respectively. I knew that our book had a width of approx. 9.5 in, so I used the Pythagorean Theorem to determine if the book could fit on a diagonal in the box (it turns out that it could not). Using math saved me an additional trip back to the post office.