Conferring with Colleagues

I met with two of my colleagues who were willing to discuss my ImagineIT project. One of them is another junior math teacher and the second one is a world languages teacher, Spanish and French in particular.

I clearly explained to them the content of my ImagineIT project, presented my website and problems that I am facing while implementing it. The Spanish language teacher suggested that I should incorporate writing in my project since the goal of our school is writing across curricula. In addition, he suggested that students should study some historical aspects of mathematics. My colleague, who teaches mathematics, was aware and considerate towards my dilemma since all of us are dealing with similar problems in our classrooms. Time constraints, motivation and differentiation are our common classroom problems. He recommended applying my project to a smaller group of students who would be interested in mathematics and would be attracted to study “Mathematical Wonders of the World”. He also applauded topics that would connect mathematics with other subjects, like science, social studies, architecture, etc. He understood that it would require a lot of preparation on my part.

I invited several students to my focus group, and there were 14 students in attendance. Most of my students were juniors from one class period and only two were seniors. We met after school for about 35 minutes. I presented ImagineIT posters and videos, one created by me and the other via YouTube titled “Fibonacci - World's most mysterious number.” Students seemed to be interested in the mystery of mathematics. They told me that they have never heard about Fibonacci Numbers, Golden Ratio or Pascal’s Triangle and they would like to learn more about these topics. Then, I asked them several questions (survey) that they could answer anonymously. These questions included but were not limited to the following: Why do you like/ dislike mathematics? How do you like to be taught mathematics? Do you like projects in mathematics class? Would you be able to come up with topics (mathematical wonders) that would be interesting for further studying? Approximately half of my students dislike mathematics, but they believe that it is important for further education. They also think that many topics taught in school they will not need in life. They stated that they prefer explicit teaching of individual mathematical skills over other methods. They were not exposed to many projects in the math classroom and they think that working with projects would drop their grades. In addition, they expressed interest in “Mathematical Wonders of the World” but they lacked any familiarity with it and that they would not be able to come up with the topic(s).

I feel frustrated while implementing my ImagineIT project. I think that this is only “my” project and students/colleagues have not been supportive of it. I may have misrepresented only one possible guiding path in historical mathematics. I have discussed all dilemmas with my mentor and he suggested that I should learn more about my students’ interest, so I can create a project that would fit into the curriculum and facilitate engagement and passion on the part of my students. At the same time, I want to stimulate my students’ curiosity for Fibonacci Numbers, Golden Ratio or Pascal’s Triangle, so we will report on these topics soon, after all, they are “Mathematical Wonders of the World.”