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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Teaching mathematics creates beautiful minds | Miami Herald


When students are really thinking, they come up with solutions their way.
My students can explain the world through mathematical equations.

Photo: Hilla Rogel
Hilla Rogel, teaches math at Georgia Jones-Ayers Middle School in the city of Miami notes, "Miss, my brain hurts! You make me think too much.” Meant as an insult, this became the most meaningful compliment I’ve received since becoming a middle school math teacher three years ago."

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Photo: Sharon Henry TNS

Learning to think, specifically to think logically, is not only the essence of mathematics, it’s a naturally beautiful way of explaining the complex world we live in. As math teachers, it’s our job to discover the art of mathematics for ourselves in order to share it with our students.

My students today see me as a super-math-nerd who gets way too excited about simple math discoveries (such as finding the area of a triangle by cutting rectangles in half). They make fun of the gigantic smile that comes across my face when they say things like “I solved it another way” or “The next answer is …” or “No, I’m right because …” or “Does it still work if …?” 

These comments prove that my students are thinking about the problem and care about their solution.

I once started a lesson by showing side-by-side videos of me, a 5-foot-tall woman with with two knee surgeries, and Dwyane Wade, the beloved Miami Heat superstar, playing basketball. My students wanted to know who scored more points. Instead of directly answering their question, I let them extract the important information. Eventually, they wrote an expression using three different variables to describe the number of points Wade and I would score depending on the number and types of shots we would make.

My lessons are focused around a topic question: How big is Florida (area of composite shapes); how are the incomes of different education levels related to the percent of unemployment (statistical analysis); is Ms. Rogel tall enough to ride the Falcon’s Fury roller coaster on our field trip to Busch Gardens (inequalities)? My students explain the world through mathematical equations — how beautiful.

My students assume that I have always been a super-math-nerd and are surprised to hear the contrary. As a Teach for America alumnus still in the classroom, teaching has always been my dream. I love being part of a movement of people passionate about bringing educational equity to all students. However, my excitement for teaching math specifically is because of three teachers and a bachelor’s degree. 
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Source: Miami Herald