Potential Resources for Educators

I’m sure most readers already have a laundry list of groups, committees, organizations, and the like that offer advice, conferences, materials, etc. for various content fields at all grade levels; however I wonder how many educators take a moment to think about some of the deeper {read intellectual/philosophical} issues surrounding education.  It is with this in mind that I will discuss {per the requirements for this assignment in my EDT 370-02 class} two organizations that do an excellent job of doing just this.

First is the Heartland Institute based out of Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA.

They have a Facebook and Twitter presence that is easily found by searching for their name on either platform.  Heartland is a non-profit that anyone can sign-up for to receive their newsletters and emails; plus any individual can choose to donate to them to further the just causes they are arguing for.  They have numerous magazines, articles, and conferences/events that vary in price (from free to a few hundred dollars) in which a person will be inundated with facts and arguments about why government schools are immoral and impractical as compared to allowing for free-markets in the field of K-ph.D education.

The second is the Cato Institute.

Again, Cato has multiple social media accounts that provide easy access to their events/publications/etc. Similar to Heartland, Cato is a non-profit that provides free access to some of their newsletters and public events.  Additionally, an individual may choose to donate to Cato or pay to access some of Cato’s research, events, and the like.

To me, the difference between Heartland and Cato boils down to this: Heartland focuses a bit more on the political side of education i.e. getting the government out of education at all levels while providing some ideas on potential free market solutions in education; conversely, Cato does education research from the perspective of moving education towards free market and accepting the ideals of freedom and liberty.

Let me close by asking this: Why is it right for anyone else to tell another person what they should do with their life?  Why is it right that the agency of force gets to abduct kids and force-feed them mandated, standardized content for 13 years with little say from the parent(s)?  Why is it okay to steal the property of individuals to finance educational institutions that those individuals might or might not agree with? Why should an individual be ‘educated’ about only a prescribed set of standards and not be taught about a differing point of view {prime example: climate change}?

I submit that it is evil to initiate force against anyone else; even if 99.99% of people vote that government schooling should be legal, that does NOT make it moral. I submit that the institution that holds a monopoly on force [government] should not have the added power of determining what does and does not get taught to the next generation.  I submit that thievery is wrong, whether done by a lone robber or an entire government.

I will close with this quote from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

“Be it a highwayman who confronts a traveler with the ultimatum: ‘Your money or your life,’ or a politician who confronts a country with the ultimatum: ‘Your children’s education or your life,’ the meaning of that ultimatum is: ‘Your mind or your life’—and neither is possible to man without the other.”

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About Me [for EDT 370-02]

While some of this information might be familiar to some of you, an assignment requires that this information be re-published.  Perhaps some of it is new, perhaps not.

As a general rule, I am a quiet and private individual; however I shall endeavor to comply with the requirements of this assignment by sharing a few basic facts about myself.

First, I was born in Lake Forest, IL, but I moved to Caledonia, MI when I was eight weeks old. I currently Math Teacher Assist at Godwin Heights High School, and I will end my final term at GVSU next semester by Student Teaching at a yet to be determined district.

Additionally, I have worked at Target as an Electronics consultant and EDUStaff has employed me since May 2016 as a substitute teacher. I gain immense material and spiritual value from both jobs, but I eagerly look forward to the time when I have my own classroom.

Finally, I have wanted to be a teacher since I was nine years old; however it was only in the past couple years that I fully understand the limitless value teaching offers to myself, especially in the teaching of mathematics. I apply a unique perspective to teaching mathematics by treating math not as a game of symbols or as being solely derived from another dimension; rather I hold that mathematics is about this world and I structure my teaching style to reflect this.

Please feel free to contact me as you so choose with any inquiries you might have about myself.

I look forward to furthering my own knowledge about the interplay between technology and education throughout the semester in EDT 370-02

Effective Math Teaching Practices

Pulling from both NCTM’s principles to actions and teachingworks.org high-leverage teaching practices, I have identified the following areas in which I would like to grow over the course of my Teacher Assisting semester:

  1. Designing single lessons and sequences of lessons- while I know that this will be done eventually in my placement, I know for a fact that I have minimal experience with this skill; hence I would benefit immensely from multiple opportunities to practice it throughout this term.  Specifically, I have a general grasp of how to integrate an entire unit together from beginning to end in terms of the big mathematical ideas {and their applications!} that the students must learn; however the concrete lessons/activities that I would like to use to guide them through the whole unit is an area where I am lacking experience.
  2. Implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving- Within the above discussion of designing lessons lies the fact that I do not want to just crank out a bunch of worksheets for students to endlessly work on; rather, I am aiming for rich activities that bridge the gap between the mathematical content and where the students might apply it once they are done with school.  While I have thought of some ideas and observed others, I still want more in order to maximize student engagement and thinking at a higher level.
  3. Pose purposeful questions- while I enjoy asking questions, sometimes it is difficult to know which questions to ask in order to guide the student’s thought process to where I want it to go.  Thankfully, my work this semester in group settings and one-on-one situations enables me to practice and reflect on different methods of doing this to achieve the desired outcome.

Long-term, I want my future classroom to be one in which students are excited to come to because they know/expect/anticipate that the learning they do will be of relevance and benefit to them at some point in their life.

Change teaching, not teachers

The title says it all.

Reading the book The Teaching Gap and thinking about this prompt, I am struck by the eerie similarity between this idea and the idea of a fundamental shift in how education is done in both America and the world. Let me elaborate briefly.

Since late 19th century, America has adopted the failed public schooling model of Prussia and integrated the evil philosophical ideas of Dewey into both the public (think government!) school system and the universities that train future teachers.  Since then and through today, America has gone through a decline across nearly every conceivable field, so the question remains: what caused that decline?

The ultimate answer is: just as America adopted a bad schooling model from Germany, so did America adopt an evil philosophy from Germany, Kant.

That discussion is far beyond the pale of this post; however please contact me if one desires further readings on this idea. Instead my focus will be to make a more positive case for changing [slowly but surely] the manner in which teachers are trained to teach and how they apply their trade.

Without further ado, I submit that a better way to think about improving both the profession and an individual teacher is to change the mindset from what it is now to thinking about what the purpose and goal of education is; to me, as I am now, I argue that education’s purpose is to allow an individual to learn about whatever topic they so choose under the direction of the educator; similarly, education’s goal is to give the individual the theoretical and practical skills to succeed in whatever path(s) that individual pursues throughout their life.

Given the rise of concrete-boundness, collectivism, and whim-worshipping in the general populace, it is no surprise that my ideals for changing the entire teaching profession, let alone the entire country or even the world are anywhere near success; however these goals can be attained, but a shift in how teachers are trained and how students are taught by those teachers must be done for this to occur.

Again, I intend on writing about this more throughout this term, in conjunction with the class requirements, but please checkout my other blogs & social media for extra information.

Thank you

 

Math Workshops

While reading the first chapter of Minds on Mathematics, I was struck by 2 ideas:

  1. In line with the general shift in teaching away from traditional pedagogy to alternative methods of instruction, the idea of implementing “math workshops” has been proposed as an effective means of presenting mathematical material to students in a manner in which they can better grasp and apply the content.
  2. Math workshops are one of many possibilities available to instructors to create new paradigms in order to provide new avenues for educators to use as they deliver content in the classroom.

What is interesting is one facet that I have not yet noticed discussed in the literature, and that is how to connect mathematics to the current and future lives of the individuals who are learning the subject.

What I mean by this is mathematics has typically been taught as, ultimately, having one of two meanings: a Platonic meaning in which mathematics is derived from another dimension [a mathematical world of Forms] or an interpretation similar to Herbert’s in which mathematics is nothing more than a game in which symbols are manipulated without any real meaning or purpose.  Contrary to both viewpoints, I hold that mathematics deals with this reality [and no other!] and has a definite purpose.  That purpose is to inform individual humans about the world/universe in which they live.

Over the course of these future blog posts, and consistent with the requirements of this class, I intend on developing this idea as it relates to the various topics that I will discuss this semester.

Returning to the concept of math workshops in this context, I argue that they are a good tool to have in the toolbox of a quality instructor; however, math workshops are but one tool to achieve the only valid end of teaching math (or any other subject!).  Hence the most proper way to think about math workshops is but another means to convey this beautiful yet complex information to students.

As I read this book, take more classes, experience {first handedly of course!}, and think on all the various methods available to transmit mathematical knowledge, then I will be better equipped to both teach and convey thoughts on mathematics, teaching, and the like.

Thanks for reading!

A bit about me

My name is Matt Rousell and I am currently enrolled at GVSU in Allendale, MI.  I am entering my final year of course work @ GVSU, and this semester I am Teacher Assisting as part of my training to be a certified teacher in GVSU’s College of Education program.  I aim to become a high school math teacher; however I am sufficiently knowledgeable to teach American and World history, gov’t & politics, Physics and Chemistry and I am interested in all of these topics.  I also enjoy reading books, discussing various topics, and playing games [video, board, or card].

I will be using this next series of blog posts primarily in compliance with the requirements of one of the classes I am taking this semester, but I will still aim to make them as relevant and intellectually stimulating as possible.

Blogpost #6

Let us consider the following question commonly raised by students taking mathematics courses at any level, but primarily I have heard this from high school students:

“How is this going to be used [helpful] in my life”?

Sadly, there is no really good answer to this question.  At least one of the reasons why this is the case is because, for a vast majority of them, they will NOT be using most/any of the math that is being taught in classes i.e. geometry, calculus, complex analysis, complex algebra on trigonometric, logarithmic, etc. functions, etc.  With that fact in mind, what teachers need to emphasize {and this is really hard both to verbalize and for students to really grasp} is the critical thinking skills/problem solving ability combined with the logical formulation of mathematics that all students should get from taking mathematics.

What I mean is that it is true that 90% of students will not be taking partial derivatives of trigonometric and other ridiculous things in mathematics for the purposes of their day-to-day occupation/existence; however, the rules behind how/why mathematicians are able to do those things i.e. the proof and use of logic to define systems/branches of mathematics will be used by them.

First, they must use logic aka common sense aka rational thought in their everyday lives to get and maintain their job and present/conduct themselves in a professional manner that, usually, impresses their superiors.

Secondly, by understanding how mathematical proofs operate i.e start with an assumption and proceed using definitions and other proven results, they can apply that to everyday arguments, discussions, and general decision making for themselves and within their jobs.

This raises a new question for teachers that they can and must answer

“how can I [the teacher] make them [the students] understand this”?

My best answer is to focus less on lecturing and spend more time on both applications of mathematics {patently obvious is physics, but economics works for some as well} and showing examples of logic problems that occur on a daily basis in “the real world”.  From there, teachers can begin to make the case for mathematical proof and how that is helpful to make students better overall writers, and by emphasizing how the logical underpinings of proofs can be extrapolated to legal and nonlegal arguments/contexts.  This should peak lots of student interest because they can start thinking about clever and logical ways to make and win arguments with both their peers, and {unfortunately} their parents.  CLEARLY we, the instructors, are NOT encouraging arguments/conflicts between our students and their parents; however, this will be a direct result of emphasizing logic and its applications in day-to-day life when we use arguments and proof as two huge examples.

Furthermore, instructors can try and shift from a traditional style to a self-discovery style and see how well students enjoy actually learning, by/on themselves, the mathematical content and its potential applications.  There are lots of risks to using self-discovery, and a huge one is the dual required presence of a text that is designed to encourage self-discovery and a teacher who has the skills to translate what they read to “its ‘real” meaning.  Plus, this does not even mention the practical limitations imposed by CCSS, budgets, and manpower conflicts present in most districts.

All that being said, I truly believe that making students recognize the true benefits of mathematics as it applies to their daily lives yields so many benefits; unfortunately, there are just as many hurdles that can prevent teachers from achieving this wondrous ideal.  One final area that teachers can direct student attention to for application is technology/programming that is used in computers/internet/etc.

Overall, I want everyone to recognize that while these options are available and that they appear to go a long ways to closing the gap between “abstract” mathematics and “the real world”, it must be recognized that none of these are a “silver bullet” solution; however, it is obvious that continuing to teach mathematics the same way as it was 100+ years ago is a certain path to failure.  Hence all the time constraints, logistical, and other issues must be recognized as existing, they must be dealt with to allow these needed changes to take place in math ed.

Anyways, that about wraps it up.  In short, students have serious complaints about the usability of mathematics in “real life”, and it is on the teacher to provide an answer to their complaint.  The answer can be found by looking @ the logic underlying all of mathematics and the applications of mathematics in physics and technology and economics {money rules!!!!!}.