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the mathematical value of “harry potter”

December 14, 2010

Look, whatever they tell you when you learn how to teach is probably going to ignore what I think is the single most important part of helping our students: experience.  For those who have it, teaching experience makes you a better teacher, sure.  But that’s not what I mean.

Having the option to start my class with a question that relates to students’ lives is so powerful.  Just by being aware of the world they inhabit, I have moved from an authority figure to an approachable mentor.  Especially with mathematics, this shift will drastically change the ability of marginal students to find their way, as well as see you as a human being and not a math robot.

As an example, my students want to find the area of different parts of the Deathly Hallow symbol and work out how the circle has to be in relation to the line for the circumscribing circle to be equilateral.  We aren’t even to that point in my curriculum, so now it’s something I need to hold on for later in the year!  And they were sad about it!  I was completely amazed at the enthusiasm in the room over finding area.

So, if you want to be a teacher and you want to spend your time reading math books, that’s fine.  By all means, read more math books.  But make sure you see some of the latest movies.  Watch a TV show.  Read some fun YA fiction.  If students can relate to you, then they will come talk to you about their lives, which will lead to them coming to talk to you about math.  Just being good at math is intimidating.  Be more.

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