The Beauty of Mathematics

I’ve decided to start sharing some of the things that I’m doing in my classroom. I’ve been heavily influenced by other classroom teachers over the years and, since finding a robust teacher community on twitter (#MTBoS rocks!), I’ve been even more inspired to flex my creative muscles when it comes to classroom activities. Plus, when I take the time to reflect on my practice I find that I continue to grow as a teacher.

By way of a small introduction, I have been teaching since 2003. I taught for five years in public schools in North Carolina, then transitioned to online education for another five years before moving to Long Island, NY where I presently teach at a private boarding school. I’ve taught everything from Algebra 1 to Calculus, but my true love is Geometry.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Dan Meyer via his blog and was intrigued with his Three Act Math concept. This led me down the path of reading other like-minded folks and I eventually found Paul Lockhart’s Mathematician’s Lament. Lockhart’s writing had a profound effect on me and my philosophy around mathematics education. I am convinced that my primary purpose as a math teacher is to instill wonder and curiosity in students as they interact with the beauty that is mathematics.

I strongly believe in the idea that mathematics is beautiful and that this is why we as a society should spend so much time and effort educating students in the fundamentals of mathematics. I am thankful to have the chance to go into my classroom each day and try out new ideas and methods with students that are motivated, talented, and most of all patient with their teacher.

The digits of pi are used the create this "skyline"

The digits of pi are used the create this “skyline”

A few days ago I had the opportunity to create and teach the first part in a mini-course called The Beauty of Mathematics that will take place over three weeks. It will take place for four hours on the first three Wednesdays of November. For the first class, we explored different mathematical patterns like tessellations, the Golden Ratio, and the Fibonacci series. We also investigated why the number pi is so significant and how it could be used as inspiration for art. I wasn’t sure how students would react to the activities we had planned, but I was blown away by the focus and creativity that they brought to the task. I am so proud of them!

A student works on a tessellation project

A student works on a tessellation project

Pink elephants emerge from this tessellation project

Pink elephants emerge from this tessellation project

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A student creates a unique tiling of triangles, hexagons, and rhombi to produce this “set of keys.”

Next week we are taking a trip to NYC to visit the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath.) I am beyond excited to take my students there and have them interact with the mathematical concepts they have on exhibit. Seriously, I cannot wait.