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The Best Math Teachers Love to Teach

The Best Math Teachers Love to Teach

In elementary school, I excelled at math. I was the kid who could complete multiplication in my head, and I was fascinated by numbers. Math was a puzzle, and I wanted to solve it. 

Then I hit middle school, and suddenly I was terrible at math. My fifth, sixth, and seventh grade math teachers were curt and annoyed by my wrong answers.

Yet, pre-algebra in eighth grade felt fairly easy. I struggled again in Algebra I but aced Algebra II.

And it was about the time I was earning high marks in Algebra II that I realized the difference: the teachers.

In honor of International Mathematics Day, better known as Pi Day, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the great teachers who make the future of STEM possible.

A Personal Example

One random day in eighth grade, my teacher was calling students to the board to complete math problems–perhaps a teenager’s greatest fear. Nevertheless, when she called me, I kept my cool, walked to the board, and said, “Okay, so the answer is obviously [long answer about triangles], so all you have to do is work back from there.”

I then proceeded to complete the problem in reverse, using the dry erase board from right to left and confidently explaining my logic. Within a minute, there were labeled diagrams, scribbled numbers, and a seesaw analogy. When I looked back at the class, eyes were glazed, and mouths were open. Pencils hung limply between fingers, never touching the paper.

My teacher, looking both dumbfounded and disoriented, stood, walked to the board, and praised me. After I sat down, she said, “Okay, forget everything she just said,” and erased my detailed diagrams. “Here’s how most of you will do it.”

Her answer seemed needlessly complicated to me, but the rest of the class quickly scribbled it in their notebooks, nodding the entire time. She glanced at me several times, as did a few of the students, and I knew she and I were sharing a thought: I completed math problems differently. That revelation made my life easier, even when I would struggle later. Her kindness and flexibility during that year made math fun, and I liked working hard to make her proud.

A decade later during an English lesson, my exasperated student snidely asked me to answer a ridiculous division question, and I did. She punched it into her calculator, then stared at me with the same look as those eighth graders. She asked me how I figured it out, but I couldn’t tell her. In the random moments when my brain works that way, I am incapable of explaining it to someone else.

That is one of the many reasons I am not a math teacher.

They Teach the Practicality of Math

Very early into Algebra II, my teacher admitted that most students would not use algebra in their everyday lives. “But some of you will,” he said. “And most of you will need it for college. And all of you need it to graduate high school. So, I don’t ever want to hear that you won’t need algebra. You need it now.” I never heard anyone use that excuse for the rest of the year.

Although he still occasionally taught the “trains leaving” cliché or the applicability to roller coasters (which was a popular word problem for some reason), he tried to teach the practical applications, too. He knew plenty of his students likely had future careers as carpenters, mechanics, and welders, who would need the concepts he taught. Additionally, at least three classmates became professors of engineering and applied sciences.

The best math teachers help students understand how the lessons could apply to real life. If you want your child (or yourself) to better grasp the principles of mathematics, look for teachers who relate them to the real world.

They’re Flexible, Too

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was created in 2010 to standardize learning in the United States. It applies to all grades, and I have never met a teacher who liked it. Many legislators like the idea, and some administrators agree. Nevertheless, teachers often hate the rigidity and the “teach to the test” approach in which they are forced to instruct.

Although some schools have relaxed, one of the biggest complaints of parents is that students are forced to use a specific method to find the correct answer. If you found the right answer, but you didn’t use the correct steps, you still missed the question. Stories emerged of neurodivergent students crying during homework, as they were unable to replicate the exact method, despite knowing the answer.

The best math teachers can give endless examples, explain a problem from multiple angles, and teach the “why” as well as the “how”. The teachers who had to look at the textbook for examples became easily exasperated with me (and other students); conversely, the teachers who could create new examples without a guide were patient with us.

The best math teachers allow flexibility in the process. Whether the student performs the exact steps is irrelevant; the most important lesson is that they develop a method that helps them understand the concepts and replicate them in the future. Finding a teacher who accepts different methods of proof will make learning mathematics easier and more enjoyable.

And They Make Math Fun

This may be the most difficult task for any teacher, but especially math teachers. How do you take a subject that is often considered rigid and boring and make it fun? How do you help the creative students who struggle with standardized processes or the logical students who struggle with variables? And how do you teach both of those groups simultaneously?

Although the standard may still be rote learning with some complex thinking in the later grades, great teachers find a way to make math class interesting. I am unsure if I have ever been as interested in math as I was in third grade when the class worked collectively to learn multiplication tables in an effort to win an ice cream party. Also, my sixth-grade teacher taught basic geometry by turning her students into city planners who designed parks on graph paper. From building with pattern blocks to completing complex art projects, I have watched students learn significantly more math than would have been possible by reading the textbook.

Great Math Teachers Teach on MyCoolClass

Whether your child is struggling with basic fundamentals, or you are studying for your final in macroeconomics, MyCoolClass has teachers who can help. These teachers often have a mix of teaching and real-world experience. Many of them have taught for several years in primary or secondary classrooms. Some of them are retired professors, and others are working mathematicians and scientists who enjoy teaching as a hobby.

Often, these self-employed online teachers have the qualities I described. They are able to apply their subject to real situations, provide a flexible curriculum, and make learning enjoyable. Feel free to browse the listings, contact the teachers directly, or even schedule a demo lesson to help you choose the right teacher for you.

A Quick Thank You to the Best Math Teachers

Thank you to all the great mathematics educators teaching future scientists, engineers, accountants, and all the jobs that require a solid math foundation. Your work is appreciated, especially by those of us incapable of teaching the concepts.

Happy Pi Day!

What’s in it for Me? – How a Teacher Cooperative can Benefit its Members

What’s in it for Me? – How a Teacher Cooperative can Benefit its Members

We all have our barometer to measure success in the workplace. Many of us are content to show up, perform our duties, and collect our wages, leaving the headaches to management. Then there are those of us who like to have some say in how things work, who want to have our hands firmly on the steering wheel. Still, there is a middle ground, where you can go about your day-to-day, without the pressures of managing a business, yet, have a say when it comes to how the business is run. If the 3rd option sounds good to you, perhaps a worker cooperative is what you’ve been looking for.

So, what exactly is a worker cooperative, and how can teachers benefit from one? Here are a few points to help you understand a teacher cooperative and why they very well may be the future of business.

 

Member Control

Cooperative members have a say in how the business is run and who runs it. Each member carries a voting share equal to any other member of the co-op. Regardless of the distribution of equity shares the co-op has issued, when it comes to voting each member holds a solitary vote. When it is time to elect a board of directors one member can’t swoop in with his or her majority stake and install their preferred candidate to ensure the profits keep rolling into their account without consideration to how the workers themselves are affected.

Of course, every detail of the company is not put to a vote. Some decisions must be made on the spot for any business to operate efficiently. It would be absurd to think that a vote should take place every time a department considered any initiative. Therefore, the board of directors is democratically selected by the members. The board can make the decisions that may be deemed beyond the capacity of a single department. This way, the needs of the members are represented without a limited number of owners or investors dismissing the needs of those that make the co-op successful to line their own pockets.

 

A Support Structure for Members

One of the 7 principles of the cooperative model is ‘’education, training and information”. This means that a cooperative has a responsibility to provide its members with adequate resources to assure members can best contribute to their cooperative, hence increasing the chance of success for the community. Whether it be information on how the cooperative operates in general or the necessary tools a member needs to be successful within the sector that the co-op does business, there is a support structure in place to help both the individual and the cooperative thrive.

 

Profits and Compensation

With a cooperative no silent investors are waiting in the wings, dictating how the company operates and hoarding surpluses to the detriment of workers. While it is possible to acquire capital from outside sources, the return on such investments is limited. The old way of slashing benefits, wages, and employees to maximize profits is left out of the equation. In a cooperative model, the money left over after business is conducted can be utilized in a manner which the cooperative community sees fit. Members can choose whether to roll that money back into the co-op to enhance the business or distribute said cash to the members as dividends. This allows said money to benefit those that earned it by putting it back into their communities, where it does the most good.

 

By Us, For Us

The work within a cooperative is performed by its members. Through collaboration on both new and existing projects members can contribute to the betterment of the co-op community. The idea is to utilize the talents and resources of the owners/members to feed the business. By limiting the use of outside contractors, costs are kept in line, and more cash flow can remain within the cooperative. Everybody wins…Except those that just wish to profit from others’ labor. Instead, that profit is returned to those that produced it.

 

These are just a few of the advantages of forming worker cooperatives. By putting the power back in the hands of those that make a business run the sky is truly the limit.

So, why have we chosen this model for MyCoolClass.com?

Shortly after starting their journeys into online teaching, co-founders John Hayes and Scott Anderson quickly realized that this industry is wrought with social injustice. Teachers are discriminated against due to where they were born, among other factors. They are penalized financially for situations that are often out of their control. The idea of any type of benefit coming from an employer is simply unheard of. No sick leave, vacation allowance, maternity leave… NOTHING. The only extra many of these online platforms offer is the fear of waking up to a message that you are no longer employed. No explanation, no recourse for teachers, nothing. Just a devastating kick to the gut, leaving capable, hardworking teachers wondering where their next paycheck will come from.

We hope that we can build this cooperative to remedy these injustices for as many teachers as possible and that others might follow our lead. We have no desire to monopolize this industry. Nothing would please us more than to find that our cooperative’s hard work set off an explosion of change in how online platforms treat their workers, benefiting not only teachers but their students and communities alike.

Read more about our vision at coop.mycoolclass.com and join the #TeacherRevolt today!

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