Diversify the tube.

Balance and the new.Math teachers hear lots of questions and most will say that the most common question is “Why do I need to learn this?” The answers are many and it is just part of the tug of war that can happen in learning. In reality, I haven’t heard many great explanations of why we teach all of the stuff we do. Some could argue the importance of absolute value functions but he or she would not have the strongest argument. They are in the curriculum and a part of testing so they are a reality of what needs to be taught but in no way is the students’ question answered.
I studied math because I found it interesting and a challenge. The subject is based in problem solving and I am gravitated toward a system defined by this concept. My favorite teachers focused on the dialogue of math as a means to examine problems and present situations in different ways. I view much of math is a way to state the same thing in different terms so that a pattern is more visible. I think that’s cool stuff but not everyone does.
You know what else, I am a goofy white male. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing and a great deal. It should mean nothing but I find a ponderous number of math teachers to be goofy white males. While it is in no way true that all white males share the same cultural experiences it means that we likely do not share the experiences of non-white male students. That issue would not be a huge challenge for me if I taught at a suburban boys school but not in most any other school. The reason it is important is that a black female student may have a much easier time identifying a black lady teacher. The girl sees that her teacher is interested in math and decides to follow suit because of the model set by her teacher and not for whatever esoteric reasons we like to have.
Different population groups treat math differently. I have worked in schools where all of the advanced students were female and I have been in ones where few of the girls developed any competence in the subject. Women, in particular (funny to say for half of the population) have societal expectations that can drive or stunt their learning. If they are to marry early and tend to the house, then they don’t have the confidence or motivation to pursue their studies beyond a comfort zone. Oddly enough, many of the girls in lower socio-economic areas see that they will need to have strong careers to support themselves and their families and school is the most available avenue for them to achieve. Those who push for more women in STEM should be pursuing these groups for they are driven to work hard and overcome challenges to get a strong career.
I work to inspire all of my students but realize I can’t. The most challenging students lack confidence and I find trouble connecting with them in a way that they are motivated. I tend to feel that what they really need is a person they can identify with to aid them.
We can’t have a specific teacher for each student in the classroom but we have powerful and great resources outside of the classroom. As more teachers are using variations of the flipped class, we have in our hands a tool that can let each student learn from people they can identify with. Unfortunately, the mechanism is currently broken. Most of the math videos are made by goofy white men. There a few others but not nearly enough. Students and teachers need enough videos to find the best ones to deliver the subject to them.
The good news is that we are faced with a fairly easy problem to solve. Anyone who feels should add to the library of learning videos. It’s fun to do and watching others will help you analyze your own teaching. Present lessons based on your strengths. Show to others what math is to you.  You don’t have to make videos, just take the time when searching through them to find different ones. Ones with different types of people and different types of presentations.

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