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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Math instructor combines learning with entertainment flare

Jim North, Southeast Campus Editor writes, "Music theorists use math to understand music, according to Reginald Smith Brindle in his book, “The New Math.”"

Jeff Gaffen teaches Developmental Algebra at the Southeast Campus this fall. 
Photo: The Connection

At the same time, instructor Jeff Gaffen is bringing a new twist to his developmental and college algebra classes: musical theater.

He feels the creative aspect of his performing arts background in the classroom can help students who typically struggle with math.

Gaffen is an adjunct instructor at Tulsa Community College (TCC) and will teach a beginning algebra class this fall.

His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from the University of Tulsa (TU) in secondary math education. He also has a minor in musical theater.

In high school, Gaffen performed in various shows, as well as being a two-year all-state choir member.

Currently, he is slated to perform in the show, “Annie Get Your Gun,” this summer.

Gaffen loves teaching math, and has the perspective that the classroom is both a stage and an audience each and every class period.

Occasionally, he throws in a song or dance to make a particular math point. He says he may be a more entertaining type of math teacher than most, but it helps to keep him balanced.

“Regardless of the discipline, any instructor in some semblance must be a performer. We have to be. Otherwise, the students will get bored and not keep their focus.”

“There is a big tie-in with math and music, for sure. In fact, math, music and movements are considered the three universal languages. That includes dance—transcending all cultures, people and countries.”

Commenting on his positive experience as a TCC adjunct instructor, Gaffen says, “I love teaching here.”

He speaks highly of TCC’s “Math Path” program. “Math Path” helps lower-level math students regain some of their previous math knowledge. In the process, they start college classes at a higher level than they would have otherwise.

Source: The Connection

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