Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My "Math Journey" and Colorful Pens

It is my last semester of college before student teaching *insert freak out here*!! I am so excited to be a teacher, and know that I will never "feel" ready, but seriously, how can it be that one year from now I will: 
               A: be Courtney Falk
               B: be a college grad
               C: be teaching (hopefully)

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness (quiz: what musical is that from...answer at end of post).

I am in a really random mood tonight. It could be because I am feeling a bit stir crazy being cooped up in Kappa with 6+ inches and counting falling outside my window. Anywho, where was I...Ah, so it is my last semester and I am in a class for teaching teachers how to teach math (say that 5 times fast) our first assignment was to write a three page paper called our "Math Autobiography." Initially I thought this was going to be the silliest assignment of my life because we had to "think back to our earliest memory of math and write about our journey from there to today"--but I actually got really into it and it was quite fun. It was just a creative free write so we could use our own writing style, voice, etc and I had a blast going down memory lane with math--who knew?

So if you are in the mood for a little light and humorous reading, continue on and read my essay...though I will warn you, it is long. Otherwise just skip ahead or stop reading all together, I won't be offended...as a matter of fact, I won't even know!!  :)

Math and I have had a long journey, a rocky road, and I don’t mean the delicious ice cream treat with nuts and marshmallows. Let me take you back to where it all began, kindergarten. My earliest memories of math involve “color by number” sheets, graphing with M&M’s and celebrating the 100th day of school with a special project where you had to make a project with 100 of something and practice counting that high with your family. My twin brother made an igloo with 100 sugar cubes, I made a windsock with 100 ribbons...you get the idea. Fast forward to  second grade—math and I are still on good terms at this point. First of all in second grade we got to be “world travelers” everything was integrated thematic learning and we studied many different countries from various continents. In this class everything was fun because it was built around the theme. Instead of doing addition from math books we got to create a homemade good and practice bartering then adding and subtracting at our makeshift African market. When we “traveled” to china we got to go outside and measure how many of our soccer fields it would take to stretch as far as the great wall. It was fun and exciting and you even forgot that you were doing math. 

Third grade comes along and math wasn’t quite as enthralling as it was when we were in other “countries” but things were still going well.  We had one Friday a month where we would have parent volunteers come in and we would all go to the cafeteria. They would each set up a table to practice a different math skill. We practiced using calculators, addition, subtraction, word problems, puzzles, games and more. It was a math fair of sorts,  something fun and different that we all looked forward to. As the third grade year progressed, our teacher began handing out sheets of timed multiplication problems where we would have what seemed like a blink of an eye to complete problem after problem. These tests were quite anxiety producing for me. You see, if you did not finish all of the problems on the quiz you had to stay at that level until you could pass, but if you succeeded then you could advance. And let me tell you, “everyone who was anything” in the third grade popularity chain was in the “advanced” group. I did quite well on these tests most of the time, mostly due to the fact that my mother practiced with my twin brother and I at every possible moment. We did math drills at the breakfast table, on the way to and from school and during commercial breaks of the “new” hit show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  We knew all the tricks and my mom even helped us to come up with different rhymes, songs and rhythms in order to master those multiplication timed tests (and no amount of money in the world could make me reveal whether or not I still find myself using those ‘sing-song-y’ tricks when I am stumped….my lips are sealed).

I suppose the real trouble began around 4th grade. First of all we started participating in Mathletics. Oh Mathletics, the after school math competition between teams of students from different schools—it was such an “honor” to be asked to be on the Mathletics team, and every one of us wanted to be a part of it…even if we were only an alternate, but truly, I HATED it. Mathletics stressed me out because your team was depending on you and if you added wrong, or forgot to place the decimal in the right place or didn’t know how to do the problem for heaven’s sake…you were the loser with a capital L. Oh how I dreaded those after school quarterly competitions! I couldn’t even enjoy the cookies and juice boxes we got because I was so nervous I would be given a word problem that I had no earthly idea how to complete. Ok, new subject, I am feeling anxiety just talking about this again!

Fifth and Sixth grade were uneventful math years…I had pretty good teachers, math was still not my favorite subject, but all was well. In middle school I had an amazing Pre-Algebra teacher who used to work for the CIA but then decided that teaching middle school math was more her calling (is she crazy?) but seriously, We all respected her so much because she literally could be doing anything and making wayyy more money but she chose to be there with us. She was one of those teachers who would do ANYTHING to make you understand the concept. She would explain it a zillion different ways until it made sense to you and you “owned” the concept.

Freshman year high school is really when my relationship with math took a beating…geometry. The very word still brings prickles in my spine. Let me see if I can paint this picture for you. It was the 7th and final hour of the school day, it was located in a temporary outdoor trailor classroom that was always too hot or too cold or smelled funny, and my teacher, Mr. Layman, was a robust old man who taught with his eyes closed (I am NOT kidding) and could never seem to explain a proof in the way ANY of us could understand. It was brutal. We were allowed to have these journals and turn them in for extra credit and I swear that is the only way I passed that class, well, that and some tutoring. Which is a whole different story. Okay, fine it is part of my math story so I will share an abbreviated version. Once upon a time during finals week I wanted help studying for my dreaded geometry final, I also had a crush on this cute boy from youth group who was two years older and had Mr. Layman as a teacher when he took geometry. I asked him for help studying and long story short we fell in love and are now getting married this New Year’s Eve. So, despite all my negative thoughts about geometry, I have to give it SOME credit, because it helped me find my husband!

When I got to K-State I had already finished college algebra through the community college dual credit program and was excited to only have two math classes to take in college. Well, let me just vent for one moment that intro to contemporary math was the absolute most horrible math experience of my life. It may have ruined math and me forever—(though perhaps you can turn that around). It was terrible, awful, to this day I am convinced it is a made up subject concocted just to frustrate me! I won’t reveal what teacher I had because you might be friends with him but he left a lot to be desired in the teaching department. He was one of those people who understood the concepts but could not for the life of him TEACH them to someone else. Our whole class was beyond frustrated with him and on multiple occasions tried to express our lack of understanding. The boiling point was when I had answered a problem correctly on the test and he counted it incorrectly because he “couldn’t find the answer” while grading it. I went in, talked to him, pointed out my work and how I arrived at the answer. He would not change my score no matter what, and I ended up with my first and only B in college, a 89.87% in the class. So that one problem on unit test 2 would have given me an A (can you tell that I am totally over it?)! That pretty much brings us to today. This is my math journey. I am excited for this semester and to see where math and I travel together next.


Okay raise your hand if you actually read that, No Way! Congrats, gold star for you! 

....akward...hem, moving right along (can you tell I am hyper tonight, oh my word!)

I got an incredible set of colored pens for Christmas this year and would just like to say that I have used them every day since. They are bright, colorful and come in the most amazing and practical little easel case-ma-bob ever! They are the Rolls Royce of pens as far as this elementary ed major is concerned. 

Okay I better sign off, I will only get more wordy as the night progresses. 
Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.

Love and Prayers, 
Court

P.S. Answer to musical trivia: Annie (said by Tessie)!

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