For many students (my past self included), math is a tough subject. I recently watched a TED-Ed talk about a teacher who wants to change the way math is perceived by students. Dr. Gina Cherkowski’s life was changed by one class, and one student in particular. (If you want to watch the video you can do so here: Math as Social Justice on TedEd)

After viewing her talk, it reminded me of what Fusion teachers get to do every day in their one-to-one classrooms. They are able to have a profound impact on the way students view math, and themselves. Each of our students comes to Fusion with a unique story. Perhaps they were bored in their previous school because the material wasn’t hard enough, or maybe a learning difference had them falling behind and they were in need of a more personal learning experience. Knowing all this, I reached out to our math teachers asking them for examples of how they teach their students who may not love math. Here’s some stories from the Fusion math rockstars:

Jim Fish
Teacher/Mentor @ Fusion Marin
“Putting the student in charge of learning”

“With one young mathophobe I downloaded the Standards Released Questions (questions found on some standardized tests for the state of California) for all the grade levels from kindergarten on, and asked him each day what grade he wanted to be in. At first he chose the simplest level, but quickly got tired of this and started asking for more challenging problems. By putting him in charge I turned his math experience around.”

Christina Bunkers
Math/Science Department Head @ Fusion Mission Viejo
“Teaching to the student’s interest”

“For a student with Asperger’s, it was difficult to determine how well he was retaining information and also to give assessments. He loved Spiderman, though, so I tried to incorporate that into lessons or quizzes as often as possible.

     

Another thing I’ve done is use interactive notebooks for students who struggle or don’t like math. They create their own collage on the cover of the notebook to create a more positive relationship with it. And then there are a lot of interactive, cut and paste activities you can use for notes and classwork.”

     

 

Jerry Hawkins
Teacher/Mentor @ Fusion Palo Alto
“Encouragement in the process”

“I like to remind myself and my students that math takes time and patience. “Math requires perseverance and a willingness to take risks and make mistakes.” That’s up on a card on my wall but when I say it to students I put it less dogmatically. I also say, “Relax, give yourself a break. It took Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz 30 years to learn calculus!”

For a student who enjoyed cooking, I sometimes used recipe examples when working with equations and fractions. One example is I used a parallel of getting a slice out of an onion as an analogy for solving a multi-step equation. I also used getting a pearl from an oyster on a beach as a comparison. These allowed him to see the math involved as more of a process done step-by-step, rather than the burst of magic that teachers seemed to employ on their whiteboards.”

Debanu Das
Teacher Mentor @ Fusion San Mateo
“Using practical examples”

“One student was unhappy about learning geometric transformations (rotations, translations, reflections) and thinking about coordinate transformations. However, he was playing with his iPhone, showing me a couple of video clips of his wonderful skateboarding habits, and in doing so was rotating the phone display to get a larger screen area to view. I pointed out to him that in rotating his phone from longitudinal to transverse to change the viewing area and aspect ratio, the phone software was in fact making geometric transformations, swapping from x-y to y-x coordinates and thereby changing the display on the screen. This opened up a whole new world for him in appreciating geometric rotations and he was so happy to have learned with paper and pencil and his class assignments about how to do them.

With another student, I was teaching inertia, equations and equations of motion. We discussed velocity and acceleration and the equations that relate them and other equations that build on them. He was unhappy at the prospect of remembering and applying the equations. I described to him about skydiving, how the divers jump from the planes, accelerate downward due to acceleration due to gravity and reach terminal velocity, which helps them to group and perform acrobatics in the air. I told him about the movie “Terminal Velocity,” 1994, Tom Cruise, which deals with this and we saw some clips of it on YouTube. This really gave him a kick and made him rather excited about these concepts and equations.”

I’m pretty sure this word-nerd-but-not-so-math-savvy girl would have learned more and taken math farther than the required level if I’d learned from a Fusion teacher.

This is just a small sampling of how Fusion teachers personalize curriculum for each individual student’s strengths, interests, and learning style. Every day teachers are creatively educating our students in all subjects. Want to know more? Connect with your local campus to know what’s happening with their teachers, or keep reading our blog for more stories.

Melissa Kersjes is Fusion Education Group’s copywriter. Her favorite part of her job is writing and sharing Fusion stories right here on our Mosaic Journal.

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