By Parivash Goff
MS Mathematics Department Chair
October 16, 2018
Math is a polarizing subject; students enter the classroom either already loving it, or convinced it is the bane of their existence. Often, my first job as a math teacher is to illuminate the beauty behind numbers, the intrigue in a simple pattern of numbers. On her YouCubed.com website, Jo Boaler describes mathematics as a “beautiful, open, creative, and multi-dimensional subject.” I am ever searching for resources and problems that embody this statement for the Forest Ridge girls.
One of the staples we use in class is Math Bowling. Girls set up “pins” (numbers 1-9) and use “balls” (three numbers 1-9) to create expressions that equal their pins, and thus “knock” them down. It’s a student favorite at all levels.
Another favorite is discovering the 11’s times table trick. Girls use inductive reasoning to examine a set of 11 times tables. Within minutes, the class is buzzing with the pattern and calculating 11 times tables faster than their calculators!
Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Math Lessons also infuse class with excited chatter as teams of girls work to problem-solve. One lesson that is particularly popular with students is trying to determine how quickly a dog can burst a given number of balloons in a quest to set the world record. The girls watch a snippet of the dog popping the balloons, and then must make conjectures about the likelihood of the dog beating the world record. Lessons like these require girls to map out their mathematical approaches and collaborate with their peers as they work their way through conjectures and methods until arriving at an acceptable solution. Jo Boaler, YouCubed.org, states “when mathematics is taught as a multidimensional subject in classrooms students engage more, enjoy math more and achieve at higher levels.”
I measure my success as an educator in many ways, but one of the main things I look for is my ability to convince the skeptic; to turn that girl who thinks math has no bearing in her life outside the classroom into a believer. That girl leaves class and recognizes the math behind her dance routines or in purchasing items or creating artistic illustrations; she sees the possibilities in patterns, the joy in generalizing those to see if the repetition holds true.
- Forest Ridge Blog