Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching

TED Talks.  We have all been there, watched them, realized the clock moved way too fast as we watched, but always we come away inspired and informed.

I commend this one to you. It was given by Dan Finkel (see below for details on Dan).

Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching published on Published on 17 Feb 2016 by TEDxRainier

We give our take on what Dan offers us, but you have to watch it to get it all in - and perhaps rewatch it to get it to sink in. Then you have to act.  We are attempting to do just what Dan suggests in SIMIODE and we hope you find these principles helpful in teaching differential equaitons using modeling as well as other courses you lead.

In this perspective-expanding and enjoyable talk, Dan Finkel invites us to approach learning and teaching math with courage, curiosity, and a sense of play.

  1. Ask a question - Questions should be genuine, authentic, and compelling.
  2. Students need time to struggle - Help them become tenacious, courageous and persevering. Give them time to think and grapple with real problems. Encourage them to interact and share perspectives.
  3. You are not the answer key - Respond,  saying, "I don’t know” “Let’s find out.” Teacher does not have to know the answer, Not knowing is not failure. Because answers won’t come from teacher students know they have to prove it to themselves. Create space for mathematical conversation and debate. You see real thinking out loud.
  4. Say yes to your students’ ideas. You gotta correct them, but saying "Yes" is not the same thing as saying it is right. Yes is a mark of respect, that you accept their ideas and value them. Moreover, peers showing you are wrong is better than teacher telling you that you are wrong. Model the courage we want them to have in the way you conduct yourself.  
  5. Playing - It is about exploring, fighting, breaking things, playing with math gives them ownership. Get the creative juices flowing through play.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Do not misuse math to create passive rule followers.

PS One comment posted said, "Please be my math teacher for the rest of my life." WOW!

About the presenter

Dan Finkel wants everyone to have fun with math. After completing his Ph.D. in algebraic geometry at the University of Washington, he decided that teaching math was the most important contribution he could make to the world.

He has devoted much of his life to understanding and teaching the motivation, history, aesthetics, and deep structure of mathematics.

Dan is the Founder and Director of Operations of Math for Love, a Seattle-based organization devoted to transforming how math is taught and learned. A teacher of teachers and students,

Dan works with schools, develops curriculum, leads teacher workshops, and gives talks on mathematics and education throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Dan is one of the creators of Prime Climb, the beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game.

He contributes regularly to the New York Times Numberplay blog and hosts Seattle’s Julia Robinson Math Festival annually. In his spare time he performs improv comedy in Seattle.

  1. mathematics
  2. teach

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