Friday, January 20, 2017

Right-Brained, Math Major

As a future educator in mathematics, the thing I fear the most is my students losing their ability and freedom to express themselves in my classroom. Comparatively speaking, math is one of the core subjects that seemingly limits students in this area. I innately think of the possibilities English students have, being able to express themselves through the words of their papers. Art students can display bits of their personalities and interests within their works. Math students…”Please find x.  And again…and again…and again.” And this fear becomes even more prominent in thinking of the math teachers who know only one way of solving problems, or only teaching their students one method to do so. It concerns me as I think of all my future right-brained students who are forced to sit within my class and try somehow to make sense of what they are expected to learn. I then think of the many future students who are categorized within one of the seven multiple intelligences that isn’t logical-mathematical, and ask myself the following question. “If I am forcing these students to be analytical, logical, mathematical thinkers, should I too, as the teacher adapt (in some degree) to each of their types of thinking?” As educators, if we expect our students to adapt and learn our material that we view as important, shouldn’t we be expected to do the same for them?

I have friends who are amazingly talented in the music department. The way they can see, listen, and understand musical content is extraordinary to me, mostly because I know nothing of this field. I do not have one musical bone in my body. When taking music classes growing up, I found myself having little interest, motivation, and knowledge to be a proficient student in these classes. Fortunately, as I got older, I no longer needed to be in these courses. At some level of my education, it became my choice if I were to stay or not, and my lack of a musical brain rejoiced that I no longer had to participate in my school band. Sorry Mrs. Sharp.  On the flip side, I think of my musical friends, who because of the common core and standards and education system we have, were forced to endure at least twelve years of mathematics. Twelve whole years, at the very least since most colleges require an entry-level math course to be taken.  And as teachers, we have become very much complacent with the fact that is just the way it is. Students have to take math, even if their poor musical brains are singing songs of sorrow the whole way through.

I say this not to discourage mathematics, or any of the other subjects in general, but rather to challenge us as educators. If we have these expectations for these students, we too should adhere to their expectations; to adjust our lesson planning, teaching methods, and assessments in ways that each of our students can somehow find a saving grace. I do believe there are ways to do this in a math room; teachers just need to put in the extra effort and research to do so. One way, in which I believe this has became easier, is through the use of technology. There are so many apps and programs out there now that cater to more then just one type of intelligence. Take our favorite program in my geometry class, Geogebra. This app has so many features that speak to visual learners that it’s beautiful. Other ways of doing this are altering lesson plans. One of my favorite examples of this was a lesson one of my peers did for our final project over the surface area of a sphere. In a typical math room setting, one would learn this and be expected to understand it, by simply being given the formula, . This means little to nothing to our hands-on learners. She instead, gave us an orange and we were to peel the orange and see how many circles we could fill with our orange peel. If measured correctly, we found that four circles could be filled. This demonstrated very well how the surface area equation came about and gave each of us a practical, tangible understanding of this.

I could speak on dozens of examples of awesome teachers doing this right. And to those teachers I’d like to say, these right-brained, kinesthetic, linguistic, and every other type of learner, appreciates you dearly. Please keep doing what you’re doing. It is of great value for our future students' education. And to myself, and the rest of the future math teachers reading this, let us always be in pursuit of implementing new and accommodating ways of teaching mathematics. It will be of great value to our future students' education, and you will be thanked, if by nobody else but myself.

Bailey Jorgensen, future math teacher with a very right-sided brain.