What makes myself unique as a math educator is that I do not have a lot of experience in the traditional mathematics classroom. In 2003, I graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and minor in Sociology with only three college math courses under my belt.
After graduation, I spent ten years as a professional in the Information Technology field. I first became a Senior IT Auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC and Hospira, Inc. During this time, I travelled non-stop anywhere from mundane Milan, Italy to the exotic farmlands of Midland, Michigan recomending system control implementations at over 40 fortune 500 companies. In 2004-2007, I obtained my CISA certification and several SAP administrative/implentation certifications. Five years into my professional career, I accepted a postion at General Electric as an IT Program Manager of Business Intelligence. A definind moment in the tenure of my career was being awarded the "Best Practices in Operational BI" from The Data Warehouse Institute in 2009.
In 2004, I started volunteering with the Youth Outreach program at The Night Ministry in Chicago, a position that I would later learn would cause an incredible change in my life path. This program convinced me that I wanted to become a secondary education teacher in mathematics and science. I applied and was accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at the University of Georgia in 2013, quit my day job, and never looked back
A majority of my experience in the traditional math classroom format has come in the pursuit of my masters degree at UGA. Beyond courses taken in high school and few calculus/statistics courses taken at the collegiate level, I have been exposed to courses on math theory, linear algebra, Euclidean construction, abstract algebra, geometry, statistics, and the art of teaching mathematics.
My experience of learning math in the grade school is most likely traditional of that of most children who grew up in the 80’s. Curriculum was controlled by the text and the teacher, and the format of the curriculum consisted of daily homework assignments, tests following each unit, and grades assigned according to whether answers were right or wrong. I was taught to memorize theorems, formulas, and methods without any practical explanation of what we were doing or why we were even doing it.
Math was taught as a subject that was unrelated to other subjects which I thought was absurd as math was related to everything we do! There were also no historical references or construction activities provided, and the only piece of technology utilized was a graphing calculator in high school. In essence, a lot of paper notecards were wasted memorizing things that I do not recall to this day.
As a transient student, I was more successful over time with teachers that did not suggest memorizing math theories and principles, but focused on helping me understand and apply them via real world examples. I also performed much better in college courses where professors were willing to spend additional time helping students understand and adapt to course work. These experiences leave me hopeful that high school math programs in the future will focus more on teaching transient students fundamentals and will adapt better towards highlighting individual student needs.
My career path has also provided many of the skills used in mathematics throughout the years. The ability to be hands on with large data sets to detect patterns and ask real business questions has taught me to be accurate, analytical, and deductive in my thought process. I have learned how to break down large processes to detect issues and find answers. My audit work has also taught me to look at processes in two different directions, which has been a great help in math proof related courses. Being hands on and allowed to make mistakes in solving problems is the best way that I learn. Most of all, my career has taught me how to think creatively and break down problems into solutions.
My math and education graduate level courses have taught me to use tools such as Euclidian construction, technology (geographers sketchpad, for example), historical reference, and practical example that have helped me understand the process of learning math for myself and others so much more. For the first time, I understand that learning how to calculate the slope of a line is actually understanding the concept of rate of change, which has led me to better understand differential equations. Using geometric construction in my graduate degree to theorize and understand problems has allowed me to greatly expand my abilities in mathematical reasoning. Also, the use of the history of math in my collegiate classrooms has been a great help to me. It is a lot easier to remember a principle in math if I can understand the process that led there, or a quick anecdote or entertaining historical story to get there.