Experiential Learning #MTBoSBlaugust

hated history class growing up. HATED. I’m pretty sure this probably broke my dad’s heart on more than one occasion; a long-time English teacher who had struggles in math and science, I know that my dad had (has!) a passion for history. By the time I got to high school it was pretty much the only subject he could help me out with, and I needed it a lot. But all I remember is learning about the explorers, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and more over and over and over again. Why, by the time I got to my junior year of high school, did I still need to be spending time in class learning about The Boston Tea Party??? To me it was so incredibly pointless. I spent a lot of time agonizing over readings from my textbook and complaining about all of the people and events in there.

Fast forward to now, and I still don’t like history class. But I do enjoy learning about history. I love living in “America’s Historic Triangle” and getting to touch and see and do things like the Native Americans, early settlers, and soldiers in the American Revolution did. Two years ago I spent part of spring break at Independence Hall in Philly and walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, and last year I did historic walking tours and visited plantations in both Charleston and Savannah. Sunday morning I did an audio tour of Alcatraz. All of those experiences were awesome.

Being able to interact with history through artifacts and storytellers is what makes me enjoy learning about it still to this day. Is it possible to bring some of these things in the school environment? Yes. Is it possible to do the same in a math classroom? I’m not sure.

There have been a lot of amazing #MTBoS teachers doing awesome things involving the history of math; I’ve seen mathematicians of the day, research papers, poster projects, and more. And there are even more teachers doing amazing work within the classroom to help make math accessible to students. But again, how much are those practices helping students connect with and experience the math? I’m not sure. I’m not sure what the best way is for students to experience math. I’m not even really sure what that means. It probably means something different for everyone and there are almost assuredly different ways to do it.

But this is one of my goals for the year: to have my students experience math in a way they haven’t before. I know that this will happen in the Physics by Design class I’m co-teaching (which I’m super excited about and will blog about later this month) so really the focus will be on Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis. Last year we did exclusively alternative assessments for each unit’s summative assessment but I was unhappy with them as a whole. So here we go. Year 3. Time to pull out those old assessments and get to work.

P.S. I also learned a lot about water this summer through my awesome time in Sarasota with DukeTIP, way more than I ever thought I’d be interested in learning. I can boil it down to: nature is pretty awesomely resilient, but we’re working pretty hard to ruin that.


A high school math teacher trying to help her students find the world and find math through math.

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