Friday, November 2, 2012

Remberance of math teachers past

   Last night I re-remembered a middle school teacher. I mean, that time in my life isn't one I necessarily want to remember. Let's call him Dr. Green. He did indeed have a Ph.D., and though at the time he seemed really old, I realize now that he was a young, probably idealistic, perhaps newly-minted, Ph.D.'er out to change math education in an urban middle school.  And he made an impression.
He was a computer geek (his home computer had voice recognition pre-1995), had us play with kinex and design software, and started a program to send urban middle schoolers to Space Camp. That's how I found myself in a model shuttle cockpit and playing with rockets in Florida. I'd like to say it was a pivotal event, one that made me determined to be a rocket scientist or astronomer, but in fact it was more of a gradually pervasive event. At the time, I was equally preoccupied with hanging out with the right people and sitting by the cute boys. But it open our eyes to the possibilities of math and science in ways that are hard for me to quantify.
  Dr. Green was an advocate for students. When, the following year, I didn't get placed into the higher math section, he wrote a letter of support. I don't know how I got to see it, but I remember reading part of it and thinking "huh, I really am good at math!" That, combined perhaps with breaking down crying in front of my new teacher because I knew I was smart enough, got me into the higher math section.
  How did I re-remember this teacher? A computer game. Perhaps the computer game that turned me into a pseudo-gamer - MYST. I think in caps it's more evocative than Myst. Dr. Green had a MYST poster in class that fascinated me. My family bought a copy. and the popular puzzle-solving game permeated even my dreams when I played it in middle school. One of my best friends played it too, and we would exchange tips and excitement every day at our lockers. Budding young nerds, were we, unknowingly becoming familiar and comfortable with computers. And yesterday I found MYST, updated for today's systems, for $6. It's really only a matter of time before I buy it.
  I know this blog is 'on the shoulders of giantesses', but obviously teachers of both genders  encourage and support us. Other notable math teachers I had included my geometry teacher, Mrs. Witkus. When I'm trying not to repeat a section of path I've already run on, I think of her nexus problems. You can only have an even number of nodes with an odd number of paths coming into them to avoid backtracking. But yesterday's moment was a mostly pleasant remembrance of the middle school student getting set on a STEM path, even if she didn't know it.

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