...though much less this year than last year, when I posted my first AMA. I was really impressed with the questions that I got and had a lot of fun doing it, so now that I'm at the end of another school year I thought I'd do it again.

To recap, I am a math teacher at a public high school in New York. I have students from all walks of life: from very rich to very poor, international/ELL, learning disabled, physically disabled, black, white, hispanic, and asian, often all in the same classroom. I've been teaching now for 6 years, and I have seen the fundamental curriculum and testing style in New York State change twice even in that short amount of time. I've also seen the perception of teachers change, becoming almost hostile at times towards my profession. I often feel that I am not trusted by parents and lawmakers to know what is best for my students, and this makes me frustrated.

So AMA about these points or anything else you're curious about teaching. If you need some homework help, I can try that out as well.

Comments: 427 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

Germanweirdo55 karma

Biggest pet peeve in the classroom?

MrMathTeacher81 karma

When I have to answer the same question multiple times because my students weren't listening. In the same vein, students who don't read instructions.

eichward350 karma

What's your biggest pet peeve in the classroom?

MrMathTeacher168 karma

Well played.

T1mac45 karma

I have the impression that kids who have grown up in the last decade or two were never taught to fail. It comes out of the philosophy of "everyone gets a trophy" and "bubble wrapped kids" so that a child never has disappointment or injury in their lives that somehow scars them forever emotionally. This has led to a generation of entitled students who reject any criticism or any negative outcome toward themselves. It seems this has spread into the classroom with grade inflation.

In math the answer essentially is either right or wrong, there is not much of a gray area in test answers. My question is: How have these type of entitled students, who reject failure and who have co-dependent parents hovering and protecting them, effected you in grading their performance in the classroom, and what ramifications have you had when you had to fail a student with these kind of pro-active parents?

MrMathTeacher49 karma

This is definitely a noticeable trend. I teach a statistics course where students often have to write a longer response to a problem, using actual words (gasp!). They're supposed to reach a conclusion based on some data and defend it. So often, I can tell they're terrified of being wrong, and so they either cheat and work with each other or look up solutions online, or write such a pathetic response that they're trying to play both sides at once.

I have had a few parent-teacher conferences with these types of parents, but fortunately I have always had a very strong department chair and administration backing me up.

Zabren20 karma

In math the answer essentially is either right or wrong, there is not much gray area in test answers.

While yes, the answer is essentially right or wrong, I would not agree that there isn't much gray area.

If your talking standardized tests, sure, I'll agree with you. One right answer, don't give a fuck what you put, if its wrong, its wrong.

The thing about math, though, is that it builds on itself. If I'm in calculus, and I miss a negative, yes, my answer will be wrong. But in calculus, your not really being tested on how you understand your algebra, your being tested on if your calculus is right or not. So I would contend that it is incorrect to count the entire problem wrong, but to instead to give partial credit.

In math, we ask students to solve problems so we can see their process. Not necessarily so they can get the correct answers every time, though that is much preferred.

I personally don't think this is hand holding. You still penalize students for not being correct, but you give them points for what they did right.

bfeinbe114 karma

This is true, even as a grad student in mathematics. At this point, of course, we should be well enough trained to pay attention to detail. However, if I am writing a theoretical proof using a more generalized argument but I accidentally change a 2 to a -2 at some point, my professor will realize that I know the difference and I may get marked down for not paying attention to detail, but I certainly wouldn't receive a 0. This brings up one of the fundamental problems with standardized testing and the misconception that there is only one right way or one right answer in math, and this furthers people's anxieties. Lastly, as a former NYC teaching fellow who taught math A and B in the Bronx, I sympathize with you MrMathTeacher, that's a brutal environment. It's really quite sad the type of behavior that students can not only get away with, but then be defended for it afterwards. Keep fighting the good fight!

MrMathTeacher6 karma

For what it's worth, I teach in Upstate NY. But thanks for the well wished nonetheless!

katiemcdoogs8 karma

Do you cut kids slack that are putting in a lot of effort, but just can't grasp the curriculum. I had a math teacher who also graded the work that you showed with the problem. Because maybe you were almost right, but didn't put a decimal or negative in the right spot. She was an awesome teacher and I definitely felt prepared for my next class.

MrMathTeacher15 karma

I'm every bit as interested in your method as I am your answer, and I don't know of any math teacher who wouldn't be. If you clearly understand what you're supposed to do but mess up some small part of it, I'll give almost full credit. Maybe even full credit anyway, depending on the assignment.

Beaver_In_A_Fedora35 karma

To this day I have inner anxiety attacks over something so simple as a tax form, or doing basic measurements and other basic mathematic calculations. I am 25.

It all started when I was 9 years old, and learning fractions. I didn't get it as fast as the rest of the class so my teacher essentially left me behind. This fucked my entire view of math up, and only got worse when algebra rolled around. After years of struggling, I finally made it to college, and had the same fucking thing happen. Everyone else seemed to blaze through algebra, and I'd ask the professor to break things down and I'd always feel like it was a chore for them to take a bit more time to explain things to me.

My last year of college, I was in my final algebra class with a professor who was brand new to the school. Finally he just clicked with me. After a few conversations about topics I struggled with, he offered to tutor me and in 2 weeks re-teach me algebra starting with elementary school level stuff. I quit my job ( waiting tables no big deal) and spent over 40 hours over the next 2 weeks sitting with him, and having things explained in a way that finally made sense. I still get chills thinking about it, because years of anxiety and depression over not being smart rolled off my shoulders. This teacher made graduating so much more sweet, because I didn't just pass, I understood algebraic equations, fractions, formulas, everything. I tried to pay him for his time, and he refused ( he really understood how broke college students are) and he did it in exchange for me bringing him a subway sandwich every day after class for 2 weeks. I passed the class with a B.

Now, a few years later, I still get anxious over math, but it's not the same. I feel like I conquered it, even though I'm out of practice and I have a teacher to thank for that.

Don't forget what you actually do for kids. Yeah they're assholes, and disrespectful, but there is that kid that just needs a teacher to give a shit and reach out beyond what is required of your job. You easily could affect them for years to come.

I only have 1 question - how would you change the system for teaching math in America? I've heard many mathematicians say it's antiquated and many countries ( specifically India and Asian countries) are doing the process better, with a higher success rate. What would you do differently?

MrMathTeacher27 karma

I would take away the emphasis on doing calculations and other algorithms by hand. There was a TED talk I saw a while ago, I forget what it is now, that said most problems can be broken down into four steps: Understand what the problem is asking and what it requires, rewrite the problem using mathematical language, perform the necessary calculations, and interpret the result into the context of the problem. So much of math instruction focuses on step three, when step three is what computers can do faster than any person. We need to shift focus to problem solving and interpretation.

I'm glad you had a good experience with math, albeit a little later than what you would have liked!

Murpeen122 karma

I agree that technology is appropriate at the high school level. However elementary students need to study the practice calculation and basic operation by hand so they understand the process. I teach 4th graders.

MrMathTeacher3 karma

Absolutely you have to know the process. If you don't know how to add 1/2 and 2/3, then you'll never be able to do anything with (x+1)/x + (x-3)/y.

I think that students should be taught these operations from a programming standpoint. Program a computer to add fractions and you'll gain a much deeper insight into it than if you're just doing it all by hand.

lenesta26 karma

Math is so important. As a student, I could tell right away if a teacher was there for the paycheck or actually gave a damn about us students. My math teacher was phenomenal when I was a junior in high school. She made time before and after school if anyone needed help and she just had so much energy. She was always smiling, happy and genuinely cared about her students. Just based on the information that you've provided here, it sounds like your passion for teaching is gone.

What do you enjoy doing? Have you ever considered a different career path?

MrMathTeacher27 karma

Please do not mistake me, I actually love teaching! Many times this year, I've sat back and thought to myself, "I can't believe I'm being paid for this!" I don't hate the profession at all, I just find the lack of trust at the state and national level to be really disheartening. My students this year were fantastic and a lot of fun to teach. Maybe I turned things around for myself, maybe it was them. I don't know. But I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else right now.

flippityfloppityfloo19 karma

Hello OP - I see in your first AMA that there was no proof in the text of your post and a moderator did not post "Verified" in the thread. If possible, could you please post proof in here? If it must remain confidential, you can message it to us here:

http://www.reddit.com/message/compose?to=%2Fr%2FIAmA

MrMathTeacher28 karma

I have sent verification that I hope is satisfactory.

cracka_azz_cracka13 karma

I feel like there's a shortage of questions about things which interest you. In an AMA a butcher did recently, he said that butchers love when someone asks them what their favorite cut of meat is.

So in keeping with that spirit, what is your favorite math topic? Which topic in particular do you get excited to talk about?

MrMathTeacher29 karma

Perhaps my most favorite times in class are when we get off topic, either deliberately or accidentally. I love to talk about math topics not in any way related to the actual curriculum, the 4th dimension especially. When you think of the 4th dimension viewing a 3D world as a 3rd dimension creature viewing a 2D world, you're able to come up with some really bizarre conclusions. Like a 4th dimensional creature could look at a textbook and see every side of every page at the same time without touching it.

forCommentsOnly27 karma

Flatland!

MrMathTeacher18 karma

Yes! I show the movie in my class and we always have an awesome discussion after!

newhere_4 karma

There's a movie!?

MrMathTeacher10 karma

BipedSnowman4 karma

I try to explain this to my classmates and they don't really seem to get it. (The "A different direction than X, Y, or Z" thing is the biggest problem..)

MrMathTeacher3 karma

If you haven't read the novel Flatland -- or seen the short movie -- you should. It helps them better understand the idea when they envision themselves as 2d creatures trying to experience the 3rd dimension. They can't.

cracka_azz_cracka8 karma

I grew up in NY and I went to NYC public schools. I've always felt very good about my education, especially when I hear what public schools are like around the country (dismal, to say the least). So I just have a few questions:

  • How do you feel like the quality of the education provided by NY Public Schools compares with the education you received?

  • Do you feel like it has improved, declined, or remained the same over the past decade?

  • Do you find that kids these days are more resistant to learning?

  • How do you deal with today's cell phones and low attention spans?

  • Every single English/Language Arts and History teacher I had in HS always used every lesson as a soapbox for pushing aggressive hippie and liberal ideals and bashing anything on the center or right of the political spectrum (this was during the Bush years). What are your thoughts on teachers who do this?

MrMathTeacher12 karma

How do you feel like the quality of the education provided by NY Public Schools compares with the education you received?

I've lived in NY all my life, so I went through NY public schools as well. I'd say it's pretty much the same!

Do you feel like it has improved, declined, or remained the same over the past decade?

I'd say that it has changed, but I'm not quite sure in which way. The focus on testing has been ramped up considerably, and now the state is evaluating teachers based on their students' scores. I don't think this, because the tests are often not very good. Plus, you as a teacher cannot force students to work, and it's very frustrating to be evaluated about something that you ultimately can't completely control.

Do you find that kids these days are more resistant to learning?

When I was in high school, I was in mostly honors classes, so I don't have the right historical perspective on this, really. I don't think they are much more so, no.

How do you deal with today's cell phones and low attention spans?

I addressed this partly in another post, but the ubiquity of cell phones is really irritating. Students are often texting during class, and then really pissy when I take their phones away. They feel entitled to have them at all times, even during exams.

What are your thoughts on teachers who do this?

That infuriates me. A teacher's role is to provide students with an opportunity to explore and develop their beliefs, not dictate the teacher's own opinions. A teacher who does this is doing a disservice to their students.

Beastlylamb6 karma

Ever have a student that you knew had so much potential with their grades and behavior but never really pushed themselves? If so how did you go about it? I remember going through school seeing the smartest kids just kinda, coast without doing anything. Is there like a teacher code about these kids?

MrMathTeacher8 karma

Yes, and it can be extremely frustrating to watch them fritter away their time. I've had students who just never did any homework, and while I wouldn't have a problem with that if they had the talent to ace everything anyway, they too often don't. School is a place to develop good work habits, and I really worry about what some students feel is acceptable. Cheating is unfortunately rampant.

DeauxJoe5 karma

I have a few friends that are teachers and I'm always curious about these questions.

What do you feel are the biggest changes from our generation to today's? Assuming you are in the 25-35 yr old range.

Knowing what you know now would you become a teacher again?

How do you feel about religion (in general as in no specific religion) and saying the pledge at school?

Thanks in advance for your answers and thank you for educating our youth, we know its an ugly job but someone's got to do it.

MrMathTeacher14 karma

I'd say that probably one of the biggest changes is the ubiquity of technology. When I was in high school, there were a handful of teachers who used computer projectors, but most still used chalkboards and those transparency overhead projector things. Now, we have Smart Boards and online courses, and I've been making videos for one of my classes.

Cell phones are also a major change, and a rather irritating one. I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell students to put their phones away or even confiscate them. Students get super indignant about it, too, feeling that they're entitled to have them on their person at all times. This is a major problem for midterm and final exams, where we have to go as far as to have a separate "coat check" room for cell phones.

Knowing what you know now would you become a teacher again?

Absolutely, though this depends on how my year goes. This time last year, I was feeling really discouraged with the quality of student that I had seen in my classroom. This year was a stark difference. They were engaged, focused, and more eager to learn from me and put up with my stupid jokes. Their test scores were also consistently better. I'd like to take the credit for it, but I don't think I can take all of it.

How do you feel about religion (in general as in no specific religion) and saying the pledge at school?

I am an atheist myself, but the matter really never comes up in class. At our school we have a muslim, jewish, and christian club, and I don't a problem with any of them. The pledge to the flag is also not that big a deal here. Its read over the announcements, but the students don't generally give it much attention. I do feel that's a little bit of a pity, but it is part of the culture of the school.

Kotetsuya5 karma

When I was in highschool, I think about 5-6 years ago, our school instituded this "No Zero" policy. A student, no matter how poorly they did, could never recieve a Zero (Or anything under like 30% it seemed) for their score because it "Lowered the student's confidence." Well, there were alot of idiot kids in my classes. They were idiots because they simply decided to write their name on the paper and turn it in blank for like a 40% or something like that.

Does your school have something similar to that? And if so, is the "Lack of confidence" really the reason, or is it so it can raise the base-average score of the class to not make teachers look bad?

MrMathTeacher4 karma

Our school doesn't give a grade less than a 55 for a Marking Period grade, though teachers do give lower grades for assignments/assessments that are used to calculate their Marking Period grade. Tying the idea to confidence is ridiculous and transparent. It all comes down to the math: a kid who gets a zero one quarter, then three 100s would still fail the class with a 60.

This is why I dislike number grades as a general rule. The designation of a 65 as passing is completely arbitrary in my mind. And not all tests are equal. An 80% on a math test and an English essay should not be considered the same thing. The state mandates number grades, though, so ultimately we don't have a choice.

AlphaSheepdog4 karma

Um.... Q1:0 Q2:100 Q3:100 Q4:100

equals 300 Divide by 4 for average = 75.... Isn't that passing?

Did I miss something since I took math forever ago?

MrMathTeacher8 karma

Well that's embarrassing. Sorry, I should have thought that through a little bit more. It's ridiculous to use an extreme example like that. Let me come up with something a little more likely:

A student slacks off the first two marking periods, getting a 43 and a 35. After failing his midterm, he realizes how screwed he is making himself and starts working hard, scraping a 68 and 75 the last two marking periods and a 71 on the final. With the first two grades weighing him down, he still gets a 58 and fails. But if those two grades were recorded as 55, he would pass the class with a 65. By recording zeroes, you put the student in a hole that's mathematically impossible for him to climb out of.

jassi0072 karma

Heh. This was the way things used to be back in my high school, except you could get below 55 in the 4th quarter. Some bright students mathed it out that they could do very well 3 quarters like 95-100, then do nothing last quarter and pass. Once the school caught on we had the new rule about 55/55/55/0.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

We actually used to have a rule like this. If a student failed both the last quarter and the final exam, they would fail the class overall, regardless of how they were doing the whole year.

IXISIXI5 karma

As a science teacher, I'm always trying to come up with interesting activities that get kids to think outside the box a bit, or get them to use the content we're learning in a real way to solve a problem. How do you accomplish this as a math teacher? Do you have any really cool activities you could share?

MrMathTeacher7 karma

I put in a curriculum development grant to get some money over the summer to create a unit-long activity about researching and using exponential growth and decay models to simulate the spread of a global pandemic virus. My hope is to have a day where students are actively working on a "cure" while also keeping track of how many infected people there are and how much more time they have to find it.

I try to bring in outside resources and research whenever I can.

IXISIXI1 karma

That's awesome! Did you use an SRI model and have them figure out R0? I did a 1 lesson pandemic and it was a horrible failure! Props to you for coming up with something that cool.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I haven't actually done this yet, but I like your ideas!

Nav_Panel4 karma

How do you feel about The Mathematician's Lament? I'm not a math teacher, but having gone through many years of NYS math education, it really resonated with me, especially the section on geometry.

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I always enjoy reading over this piece, though it's been a little while since I did the last time. The first time I read it, I felt revolutionized and tried to fundamentally restructure my Algebra 1 course. Unfortunately, this meant not covering everything on the standardized curriculum, so I had to stop. And that's what wrong with the concept of standardized curriculum...

Startingshone3 karma

What do you think of the regents?

MrMathTeacher4 karma

They go okay.

Cobaltzip3 karma

Hi, American high school rising senior here. What is your opinion of the AP class system? I take many AP classes, and for my senior year, AP will comprise of my entire curriculum. Many people argue that the AP system places an unfair workload on students and doesn't actually prepare them in the course subject material to the caliber of a regular introductory college course. Additionally, fewer and fewer colleges are giving credit for AP exams. Is it worth all the extra work, in your opinion?

MrMathTeacher7 karma

I like the idea of AP classes, but I don't like what it's become. I think it's great for students who have the talent to start getting college credit in high school, and they should have the opportunity to do so. The AP Statistics class that I teach really does match up well with entry level "Stats 101" courses at the college level.

What I don't like is that students no longer care about the content. They take AP classes so they can tell colleges they're taking AP classes. They're not interested in doing the work for the course, and so they cheat or don't even bother.

Zabren1 karma

when you teach ap stats, do you assume your students know calculus already?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

Absolutely not. The class is has no calculus content, and so I have no reason to expect any calculus knowledge. Sometimes students take both AP Stats and Calc, but more take just Stats. And rightfully so, in my mind. Between the two, Statistics is a much more widely useful course.

belalugosiscats3 karma

Working in the public school system, do you notice a hidden curriculum being offered to poorer children?

MrMathTeacher5 karma

This is an interesting question. It perhaps isn't unsurprising, but poorer students tend to not do as well in school, and many of these students have trouble getting through the "standard" curriculum. This is by no means true across the board.

We differentiate extensively in our classrooms and in our curriculum. We've developed courses specifically for students who are having trouble with the standard curriculum, which has I think helped them considerably. There may be a different curriculum, but I wouldn't call it hidden.

POWERUSER_NAME3 karma

Thanks, you guys really helped me a lot. But here's a question: what's your favorite discipline of math? What are (by and large) the favorites of the students?

MrMathTeacher5 karma

I love statistics, which is often the one branch of math that mathematically-oriented people claim as their least favorite! It's just so damn applicable!

Aquarius1283 karma

I honestly am not that good with math, my dad wasn't either I have a twin brother with a disability in math (we we're both premmies and I was born with an apgar score of 1, brain bleeds, and was supposed to have cerebral palsy) but I proved the doctors wrong! I was going to get an IEP as a kid, but I didn't. I've been dong normal math classes all these years. I've always struggled since elementary school, it never has been something that clicked. I'm not making excuses but I'm glad to have teachers willing to help me. I love English, although it may not show I got a really good score on my exit exam and still passed my math too. Iv'e had a lot of teachers who take the wrong approach, yet some that we're wonderful to me. Besides math what would be your other favorite subject now or when you were in school?

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I was a very school oriented kid, so I liked pretty much everything. I also enjoyed science classes, chemistry in particular. I took a lot of programming, too, which was a lot of fun.

Kotetsuya3 karma

Oh, I have another question I hope you answer.

Have you and your school district heard about the Massive Standardized Test scandel that took place in several Atlanta Georgia districts a few years prior?

If so, has something like that comming to light change the way tests are handled?

MrMathTeacher6 karma

I did, and that's what happens when you tie teachers' evaluations to test scores. It's a shame that it happened, and it illustrated a shocking lack of morals, but it's not surprising. By basing a teacher's effectiveness on the results of a standardized test, the state created the incentive to cheat.

Make no mistake, I'm not defending their actions. Its reprehensible that they would do this. But I understand their motivations. Unfortunately, it seems that this action of tying evaluations to test scores is only happening more and more often.

cthulhu_1103 karma

[deleted]

MrMathTeacher12 karma

I hate the politicalization and commoditization of education. It feels at times like "Big Business" is done with healthcare and now moving on to its new cash cow. The Common Core comes with it lots of new textbook companies, curriculum writing companies, and test writing companies, with very little accountability. I keep hearing stories about tests with mistakes on them, and to think that teachers are going to be evaluated based on their students performance on these tests is depressing.

MrIvysaur3 karma

From a legislative perspective, what would you change to make teachers more effective? Like, if you could create/destroy/edit laws or regulations, what would you change?

Did you major in Education, or get your teaching certification later?

MrMathTeacher4 karma

I majored in math with a minor/concentration in education. I actually went to college with the express goal of becoming a math teacher.

If I could change any regulations, as I posted elsewhere, I would do away with standardized curriculum and give teachers the tools, resources, and trust to come up with their own curriculum and assessments.

Stained_Dagger2 karma

Do you feel that there is a problem with a lot of teachers who are frankly bad at teaching or is it overblown?

How do you feel about requiring teachers to have a master's in order to teach? Is it a good idea? Do you have any ideas how to create or get better teachers for schools?

MrMathTeacher10 karma

I think the "bad teacher" problem is definitely overblown. There are certainly some out there, ones who don't really know their subject matter well enough, those who don't care enough, but their such a smaller minority than how the professions is being portrayed.

I think a significant amount of education is a good thing, though I don't think a Masters degree in their field is necessary. In NYS, a Bachelor's degree is enough, but you also need to get a Masters of Arts in Teaching, which is a separate degree for going through an education program. A teacher needs to have an education at a higher level than the actual curriculum they'd be teaching, because otherwise they have no ability to connect points to higher themes.

BrainsOut_EU2 karma

Do you ever get thank you letters or just anything from successful graduates? Do you, as teachers follow their achievements?

MrMathTeacher3 karma

Sometimes, students will write me a letter at the end of the school year, or they'll come and see me when they visit the school. I really love catching up with them, and feel honored when they take the time to visit.

QuirkyKel2 karma

What is the biggest threat you've faced in the classroom?

MrMathTeacher7 karma

Well there was a fight in my room last year, so that's something. Thinking a little metaphorically, I find being evaluated based on my students' test scores, which can be flawed and I don't have ultimate control over, to be disconcerting.

grant02 karma

So, what changed in the last year to make you like it more?

For someone who's considering going into teaching…any thoughts or advice? I've volunteered working with children every summer since I was 15 (now 21) doing peace education at international summer camps, and I think I'd be good at teaching.

MrMathTeacher8 karma

If you've been volunteering with kids and enjoy it, definitely consider teaching. Just be careful about what subject. You really need to know your stuff. The kids notice when you might not be particularly skilled at your subject area.

bluebawls2 karma

How do you feel about the changes to the NYS math regents? Namely, eliminating the "Math A/B" in favor of individual topics, as well as the content of those tests?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

At this point, I think moving away from the Math A/B system was a good one. It makes a bit more sense to have more individual topic tests, though the content that they put into them is a little weird. The Integrated Algebra exam has a tiny amount of trigonometry in it, almost too little to be worth it. I'm relieved to say that it's being moved to Geometry in the new Common Core.

ionoiono2 karma

Why did you want to become a teacher in the first place?

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I always enjoyed math in high school and loved talking about it with other students and with teachers. I did a lot of peer tutoring, and found that I was pretty good at it.

BassInMyFace2 karma

My mom Is also a high school math teacher of 30 years. She also hate the quality of her students and the whole quality of her department at times. But she says the few that appreciate the help are all worth the trouble. She has received many thank you letters/gifts in the years. It's awesome to see that some kids actually care.

It's not a question but I can understand how you feel

MrMathTeacher1 karma

Thanks!

k_space2 karma

When I tutored college math, I remember helping students through things like solving cubic equations by hand, finding inverse matrices, and other topics of questionable usefulness. Are there topics that you have to teach that you feel are wasteful? How do you handle the question, "when am I ever going to use this?" particularly for those who are not interested in a math or science based career.

MrMathTeacher3 karma

Rationalizing. I learned recently that the only reason rationalizing was ever a thing was that the algoritms to evaluate these expressions by hand and get a decimal required an integer denominator. It's so unnecessary now.

I do get the "When am I ever going to use this" question every so often. When it does, I try to be honest and tell them that they won't. They'll probably never need to factor a polynomial in their life. But they do need to develop sequential thinking and problem solving skills and to apply these skills to new contexts. Math classes give a self-contained set of rules and environment to do exactly that.

k_space1 karma

Can I take the fact that rationalizing is still part of the curriculum as evidence that math education is having a difficult time staying current?

follow up question:

I am not very close to the situation, but I was told by one of my undergraduate professors that the workload in one of his kid's junior high math class was so bad that many parents had purchased the solutions manual to the book to spare them 2-3 hours of nightly work (possible exaggerated. This is what I was told). He said that his school was ruining math and science for his daughter, who was previously home-schooled by her parents.

I chose a math based career, despite failing 2 semesters of math in high school. The tedious and often wasteful workload of high school math was really difficult for me.

This seems to be a fairly common problem, at least in Utah/Idaho. Do you also get complaints that you feel are legitimate about excess homework? (not the usual student whining of course) How do you manage student workload in your classes? How does standardized curriculum affect how many problems you assign?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I really try to keep my homework assignments reasonable, and at least in my Algebra 1 classes I always try to set aside some time for them to start it in class. If I assigned a lot to these kids, they just wouldn't do it.

2-3 hours of math work alone is ridiculous. Either the teacher isn't teaching well enough and so the student is taking too long to work through the problems, or he/she is assigning too much work.

l2el3ound2 karma

Hello, High School Student here. Now, you say that the state has changed the curriculum twice in your short time of teaching. Does this cause problems when moving to a higher level of math? For example you are teaching an algebra one class. Everything is fine, but the next year the state has you change the curriculum. Does having the change in curriculum affect their success in the next level of math? (Either Algebra Two or Geometry, either or varies by state I believe.)

EDIT: Spelling

MrMathTeacher1 karma

The previous time they did this, they staggered it so that students were never launched into a new curriculum without having had the proper background. The state isn't doing that this time, and I don't really know why.

Popcom2 karma

I don't know if you're still checking this, but thought I would share anyway.

I struggled with math all through school. Fist year of high school I was in sped math and barely passed. I was trying, but I just didn't understand it. Then second year I had an amazing teacher. He didn't take any special interest in me, or tutor me specifically, he just taught in a way I finally understood. For the first time ever I got math! I went from scrapping by sped math, to an A in advanced courses for the last 2 years of HS. I never got to properly thank him. Teachers make a huge difference, even if you don't always hear about it. Thank you for all you do!

MrMathTeacher3 karma

I appreciate your comments. Sometimes I think people in your position aren't so much benefitting from that particular instructor as you are benefitting from hearing 2 or 3 totally different perspectives. It's the quantity of different ways of looking at the subject that total up to your understanding. But we'll gladly take the credit!

D_Adelier1 karma

If you're still around, I just graduated high school and this past year I took an online AP Statistics course. It was hands down the worst class I had in high school. It was pretty much a "learn it yourself and do homework problems" environment, an environment I can deal with and even enjoy. However there was a ridiculous amount of busy work and silly, useless assignments. One that really got to me was that we had to watch a series called "Against All Odds" created by Annenburg (sp?) Media. It wasn't all that bad, but it was treated as a serious learning tool when it was more about the application of statistics in the real world (5-10 minutes of explanation, 15-20 minutes of cases). Even though applications are important, the program had a fatal flaw: it was released in the 1980s. The majority of the applications were outdated and many had no bearing in the new millennium.

Anyway, after that rant, what is your opinion on math classes being taught online? If done properly I feel that it could be a plausible method of teaching, but I can't say I've had much experience with online classes.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

Online math classes can be tricky. We implemented a variant on the idea in our Algebra 1 class this year, extending the curriculum with some "honors level" topics for interested students. They subscribed to a Blackboard site, viewed supplemental instructional videos, and completed additional homework assignments and test items. It worked out pretty well.

I've actually applied as an instructor for an online AP Statistics class, and I'm curious to learn more about how it works.

teganandsararock1 karma

have you read a mathemcaticians lament?

http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I have. It's a great read. It's been awhile, though. I should take some time to read it over again.

SoUpInYa1 karma

What about parent involvement, how has it been in your classes?

How should a parent be involved, knowing that there is a line between 'too' and 'not enough'?

I've also seen the perception of teachers change, becoming almost hostile at times towards my profession.

How so? Like most professions, there was a time when teachers, police officers, priests etc., were given a certain reverence. In no small part to scandals these professions have lost much of their aura of unassailability.

MrMathTeacher1 karma

Parents need to ensure their students are doing the work they should be doing, but teachers need to make sure they make it easy for parents to know what is assigned. I have a website that I post to daily with assignments and notes so parents and students can stay 100% up to date on what the latest assignments are. It goes a long way to improving parent/teacher relationships.

soproductive1 karma

How happy are you that you actually got to apply every aspect of your math courses that you went through in all your years of school? I feel like about 50 percent of the material from every math class I've taken is useless to me unless I plan on becoming a math teacher.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I always enjoyed math, so it was never a chore for me in high school. I will say though that when I was in college, I frequently took solace in my lack of understanding of certain topics that I would never need to use it as a high school teacher.

Baxillie1 karma

[deleted]

MrMathTeacher1 karma

It's not that bad. For the big state tests, I grade them with all of my colleagues. It can become a lot of fun, actually.

derpderpdonkeypunch1 karma

Not a question, but a request. Please, please, please, please, at some point during your class, tell your students that the approaches to solving the problems you demonstrate in class are tools to go in their problem solving toolbox. I've never been great at math (I'm pretty ADD and it just feels so menial and uninteresting to me, but I think that's a byproduct of the approach I was taught to math), but it wasn't until I went to college and got my degree in 3-d animation (and sort of specialized in surfaces and lighting) that I realized that math should be treated like a puzzle.

Earlier in school I was shown techniques to solve a problem. I applied those problems in tests and would get an insane complex answer and get marked wrong. When I asked what i did wrong I was told the process I applied was technically correct, but not appropriate for the problem. I wasn't taught why it was appropriate, or how to differentiate when what was appropriate, or even that the techniques I was taught could be applicable in a wide variety of circumstances. I was simply given examples of problems, saw a technique applied, and tried to replicate it when I saw a similar problem.

My high school math teacher was a nice guy, a brilliant person, and an excellent teach, but I think the level he was on as far as math goes was so far above even considering that he may need to point out some of the more fundamental parts of tackling algebra 2, trig, and pre-cal. As someone that is smart enough to have been great at math, the fact that I wasn't told how to approach it really upsets me, did a good bit of harm to my overall GPA, and greatly contributed to my perception of math as often unintelligible. Don't let that happen to your students if you can help it.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I try to do this nearly every day. The problem is that teaching problem-solving is quite difficult, and requires a lot of patience that students often don't have. Too often, they don't want to go through the process of thinking about a problem. They want to instantly know how to solve it, and get frustrated if they don't immediately see it.

iamawesome991 karma

You may have already answered this, so I'm sorry. How do you deal with the students who just don't get it? I remember being in class with this girl, who would almost everyday raise her hand and say, "I don't understand." I would be so frustrated in my head, to the point where I would want to stand up and scream, "It's right there on the freaking board, and she just spend the last 20-30 mins explaining it and working through examples. How do you not get it?????" I understand everyone learns different, and some people do have learning disorders, but how do you find a different way to explain a subject like math, I feel like there is just on way to explain how to solve these problems.

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I do a lot of differentiation in the classroom, trying to teach to different learning styles. I always try to have time in my class for students to start on homework, too, so if a student didn't get it from the first few explanations, I have a chance to sit down with him/her to step through it with some new examples. It's nice, because they also then have a head start on their homework assignment and they feel good about it.

chipotleslayer1 karma

What level(s) do you teach?

One of my old high school math teachers used to give open note, open book tests, but the actual material on the test was slightly more challenging. His theory was that it was to hone our skills with using our book as a resource and rewarded the students that took good notes and were well prepared. This happens often at my university as well, at least the open book part. Do you ever do this with exams?

And how easy is it to tell when a student does not have an adequate foundation for you to build off in your subject. And how do you balance catching those students up with moving the higher level students in the same class forward?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

They year I teach Algebra 1, an introductory high school math course, and AP Statistics for college-bound juniors/seniors.

I will sometimes give students a pairs quiz, but I haven't gone as far as to do an open note quiz. It's a good thought...

Acatea1 karma

There are many ideas in the university concerning how best to prepare educators for the classroom. With the variety of exceptionalities and needs across regions and eve school districts, I'm wondering if you feel that you were adequately prepared for your first few years?

I haven't read the first AMA, but did you finish the graduate program and did you find that beneficial?

Also, if you work with any Teach for America people, what opinion, if any, have you of that program?

Finally, did you see this http://www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Teacher_Prep_Review_2013_Report ?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I do feel I was prepared, mostly. The educational psychology classes weren't all that helpful, but student teaching obviously was. The one thing I remember being particularly surprised and unprepared for was just how much work teaching is.

Teach for America is a great program, but has its weaknesses. The program is, in my mind, for people who don't actually want to go into teaching as a career. I think it doesn't do a particularly great job preparing prospective teachers. So much of what you learn is on the job, yes, but having zero experience beforehand is not a good idea.

Squigiddity1 karma

Do you have Running Start programs? What is your opinion of them/do you guide students toward them?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I am not familiar with the program. Is that a preschool program like Head Start?

comicsmaniac1 karma

I had the same math teacher all throughout high school. Luckily, he was one of the most devoted teachers I've ever had. His class was very challenging, but kids rose to his high expectations and nearly everyone passed the AP Calc AB/BC exams under his tutelage. I was one of those students, despite math being my weakest subject.

At the end of the year, he always shows his favorite movie, Stand and Deliver. It's obvious that he hopes to inspire kids the same way Jaime Escalante did for his students.

That said, what's your favorite movie?

And thanks for being one of the rare teachers who are still passionate about their work! You guys really make a difference, at least for me. :)

MrMathTeacher1 karma

One of my most favorite movies is Mr. Holland's Opus, a music teacher granted, but a teacher nonetheless. Stand and Deliver is a great movie, too!

Johnnyvp1 karma

Do you play eraser slide? If not you should.

MrMathTeacher1 karma

I don't know what this is, though I'm intrigued.

CaucasianAsianX1 karma

What are you views on having a Teacher's Union in NYS? Do you think it really has helped the students' educations or just the teachers' lifestyles?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

The perception that unions exist only to improve the lifestyles of teachers is one of the most frustrating and depressing things about my job. Unions exist to support teachers who want to go against the grain for their students, teachers brave enough to truly stand up to standardized curriculum and do what they know is best for their students. They exist to advocate for students, much more so than politicians who haven't set foot in a school since they graduated.

reeelax1 karma

I'm trying to become a teacher and you're scaring me a bit here.

I've worked in a cubicle for the past 3 years since graduating from university. I can't do this much longer. Though complacency sets it and does numb it all out to an extent, I need to get out.

I've always wanted to teach. I've actually taught part-time for the past 6 or so years and I really enjoy it. The pursuit of knowledge has always been one of my greatest pleasures, and I discovered that conveying that knowledge to others gave me crazy satisfaction and joy.

I initially wanted to teach college/uni level biology as students are more matures and little kids can be a bit hard to manage but family financials put my grab studies on hold. Then I started considering high school sciences and thought it would be a good job.

  • Did you always want to teach?
  • Do you genuinely enjoy teaching?
  • If you could go back in time and redo/undo certain things about your career, would you? and what?
  • After 6 years, how's the pay?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

If you want to teach, then you should. I have wanted to teach since early high school, and I went to college with the express purpose of becoming a teacher. I truly enjoy teaching, often having moments of awareness where I realized, "Holy crap, I'm getting paid to do this!" After 6 years, my salary is a little more than $42,000.

I've been considering your back in time question for a while, and I guess I'm relieved to say that I don't think I would do anything differently. I think the experiences I had early on were important for me to have and helped to shape who I am now.

witty_and_new1 karma

What is one thing you want to change about the American education system?

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I want to get rid of standardized curriculum. I want to be trusted to create my own curriculum, one that I feel is appropriate and challenging for my students to understand and excel in. I want teacher education programs to train teachers in age-appropriate curriculum and creative unit planning, and have that actually mean something. The idea that every student in the state, from urban New York to rural Catskills, can learn the same thing at the same time in their development is preposterous.

k_space3 karma

One reason to use standardized testing is to get valuable feedback on how students are doing, which areas they are weak, where they are strong, which teachers are doing well, which schools, etc.

As it is, it doesn't seem like the testing is being used effectively in this way. In your opinion, what is the best way to evaluate progress and performance in education?

MrMathTeacher1 karma

This may be the stated objective of standardized testing, but it isn't what happens. What I'd like to see is for districts or departments to be free to create their own curriculum that is appropriate for the students that they actually see. I understand the problems with this -- not all math grades at a particular grade will necessarily be comparable to each other -- but the state doesn't need to dictate the exact curriculum at every single step through a student's progression.

There needs to be less standardized testing, not more.

MrHCaulfield1 karma

[deleted]

MrMathTeacher1 karma

Absolutely, without question. It would be more fun and interesting for everybody, teachers and students.

wikkedwhite0 karma

Whats 1+1?

MrMathTeacher10 karma

In binary, it's 10.

spitfire91070 karma

do you teach at a specialized hs in nyc? do you recommend specializd over public? I went to a nyc public hs and i hated it because it was a zoned school and full of idiots. In a specailized hs the students are smarter because the shsat weeds out the bullies and idiots.

MrMathTeacher2 karma

I teach upstate, so I don't know much about specialized schools.

davidpatonred-6 karma

Rather negative way to start an AMA. Quit if you hate it so much.

MrMathTeacher4 karma

I don't hate it so much, just certain aspects. Did you read my text?

davidpatonred-2 karma

Sure, it's your title though man. You Sound so defeated.

MrMathTeacher4 karma

I realize that. I actually used that title because it was the same title I used for my AMA last year. Hate is perhaps too strong a word for how I feel about things this year, but I wanted the consistency.