Solving the Rubik’s cube was one of the main themes in my Mathematical Explorations class this semester. My students believed for most of the semester that they would never ever be able to solve the cube. Watching them overcome this belief was powerful for all of us. One of the main goals of my course is for students to change their beliefs about their mathematical abilities and to become more persistent, confident and creative in problem solving. And the Rubik's cube does just that.
Instead of describing a particular teaching technique, this (shorter) blog will expose you to many ideas that come up for me around teaching a specific topic, salsa rueda, in a math for liberal arts class. I will tell you why I love to include dancing in my math classes and show you videos and student work from my math and dance class. Maybe you also want to give it a try some day?
I believe that students need to take risks in the mathematics classroom: the risk to not know (yet), to make mistakes, to speak up when something doesn't make sense, to ask for support, etc. In my experience this creates the environment that allows students to learn. If we ask our students to take risks, shouldn’t we, the teachers and facilitators, do the same? I find it easier for my students to be vulnerable when I have modeled what that could look like.
Math Explorations showed me how much there was to learn in the world of mathematics. I had been contemplating the idea of pursuing a career as a teacher. Seeing the difference in how math is taught in high school and how it was taught to me in Math Explorations pushed me into thinking about how I could help kids in high school learn and appreciate math. I was convinced that this was the direction for me, so during my next semester I declared a Mathematics major with a certification in Secondary Education.
Although I enjoyed and appreciated mathematics, I was not compelled enough by the mathematics of high school to make it my major. This soon changed as I took my first college-level mathematics course, Math Explorations.