On Enrichment

When it comes to math, I’ve been describing the work I do as enrichment for some time now. My idea of teaching math is to focus on thought process and problem solving, rather than specific content. I like playing Nim and doodling stars more than practicing algorithms.

I use this material as a way to show how fun the creative side of mathematics is. In the process of playing with these ideas, students learn about all sorts of things including number sense, spatial reasoning, and if/then thinking. These ideas are challenging and engaging for students at any level, regardless of their strength or passion for math. The benefits for advanced students are obvious, but this approach is particularly important for kids who say they “hate math,” as it challenges their ideas of what “math” really is. Playing catch-up by focusing on skills will only go so far with these students who think they don’t like math.

Exciting Opportunities

The next few months are going to be very exciting. I have two new projects, and I can’t decide which I’m more excited for.

The first is that I’m joining forces with Dan Finkel and Katherine Cook to teach some Math Circles with Math For Love. Since shortly after my February arrival to Seattle, I’ve been very impressed by the work I’ve seen from them, and I’m really looking forward to working with them. We have very similar outlooks on mathematics and math education, and I know I’ll learn a lot and have a lot of fun with this work. 

The second is a big step outside of my comfort zone, both geographically and professionally. I’ll be escaping the Seattle winter to spend January through March working in Mozambique! I’ll be homeschooling three girls (K, 2, and 4) while their parents (both of whom are in Global Health at UW) are working. This will be new for me in all sorts of ways:

  • I’m used to teaching an hour or two at a time, rather than an entire day.
  • I’m used to teaching math, rather than all subjects.
  • I know essentially no Portuguese (but working on it)
  • I’ve never been to Africa

This type of work has never really occurred to me, but if I like it, maybe there’s something to the idea of being a “travel tutor…”

Wish me luck!

 

My YouTube Debut

This week I recorded and posted my first ever video lessons. My first project was a series on Nim, a game that I’ve been interested in for the past couple of years. You can check it out here.

I have a couple of ideas for other videos to make, but I’d love to hear some requests/suggestions! I’m hoping to get a new one up every couple of weeks, but we’ll see how it goes.

 

A Washington First: Camping

Last weekend I went on my first camping trip since moving up here. As a new Seattle resident, I’ve got all sorts of firsts to look forward to, and this one set a pretty high bar.

This trip was my first time to drive east from Seattle. Growing up in Reno, I’ve always loved driving through the mountains, but I was quite surprised to see so many waterfalls! I saw a lot in SE Asia last year, but the drive through Snoqualmie had more waterfalls per minute than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

We settled in the Yakima River Canyon, at Umtamum Recreation Area. There’s a turnoff just past the public campsite for a private tubing place. $20 per person includes a tubing trip and a campsite for the weekend–pretty sweet deal.

The landscape around there is just like home: rolling desert hills, covered primarily in sagebrush and the like.

I’m looking forward to exploring this area more over the course of the summer–maybe head East next time! 

 

On Enrichment

When it comes to math, I’ve been describing the work I do as enrichment for some time now. My idea of teaching math is to focus on thought process and problem solving, rather than specific content. I like playing Nim and doodling stars more than practicing algorithms.

I use this material as a way to show how fun the creative side of mathematics is. In the process of playing with these ideas, students learn about all sorts of things including number sense, spatial reasoning, and if/then thinking. These ideas are challenging and engaging for students at any level, regardless of their strength or passion for math. The benefits for advanced students are obvious, but this approach is particularly important for kids who say they “hate math,” as it challenges their ideas of what “math” really is. Playing catch-up by focusing on skills will only go so far with these students who think they don’t like math.

Getting Started in Seattle

After four years in Chicago and six months on the road, I’m now thoroughly enjoying the life I’m making for myself in Seattle. I’ve been here since February, and I couldn’t have picked a better place. The move from Reno to Chicago in 2007 made me realize how much I love the mountains, the amount of water was a very pleasant surprise! Everybody warned me that I wouldn’t like the weather, but I find myself taking advantage of those rare sunny days rather than taking them for granted. And I’m hoping the famous Seattle summers aren’t just hype…