I started my teaching career in a small school in Rosendale, MO. I was fresh out of college, married less than two months, and was tasked with finding a place for us to live where my husband would be able to put his business administration degree to work.
I walked into my first classroom hoping what I’d learned at the university would serve me well. I was not much older than my students. Computers that had been loaned out to teachers over the summer trickled in. I had to figure out how to teach 15 students on those 5 IBM and 5 Mac computers and how to hook them up. I was responsible for teaching everything from Applied Math to Turbo Pascal to Calculus. And I walked uphill both ways to school and back.
To top it off, the Flood of ’93 had convinced voters to approve a bond issue when two of the three county schools were threatened by the Missouri flood waters. I had just started to get into a rhythm by Thanksgiving break which was spent moving all three buildings into the new one on the hill on the corner of 71 and 48 Highways . The good news is that with the new building came rental of new computers so I had a one-to-one ratio of computers to students in my computer applications class. The bad news is that the company we rented them from went out of business in April and I was back to the 2:3 ratio through the end of the year.
My first three years were about survival. Master the curriculum; realize your grade book weights are so slanted to tests that homework doesn’t have an impact on the overall percentage. Find that you have a student who is so gifted in math that you pray each night that you don’t screw him up by teaching something wrong. Hope you aren’t teaching your programming students bad habits. But, because I was determined and had a great support structure, I not only survived but thrived.
It was around my sixth year of teaching (we had moved to Bellevue, NE to be closer to family) that my students started questioning why they had to learn Algebra. I had the poster on the wall that listed all the careers that required Algebra. I pointed to it. When the questions persisted, I explained that I didn’t have a crystal ball, but if I did and could predict their future, I would end up influencing it. If I said, “You’re right, Nick, you don’t need Algebra. You are going to be a trash collector and it doesn’t require Algebra to be good at your job,” Nick would respond that he would not be a trash collector and would prove me wrong and would get a different job that would likely require passing Algebra just to spite me.
Still the questions persisted. I thought I’d be clever. I knew that the Karate Kid was old enough that most of my students would not have seen it. I pulled out the VCR and began showing the scene where Daniel is at the Halloween party dressed as a shower. We watched as he gets beaten up, Mr. Miyagi patches him back together and promises to teach him karate. We watched the sand the floor, wax on wax off, and the paint the fence and house scenes. A girl in class protested that Mr Miyagi was using Daniel. We culminated with the clip below. Then I asked my students why I would be showing a movie about Karate in an Algebra classroom. I’m not sure how many of them completely understood my intent.
With many more years under my belt and a few new skills I’ve picked up in video editing and web design at my current job, I think I am now ready to answer that question.
Welcome to Systry.com. I hope you will find the real-world, hands-on examples and activities help you learn and enjoy math.
Each page on this site uncovers a concept. The videos are purposely short, but feel free to pause and repeat as much as needed to understand the concepts. Additionally, the script and supporting materials for each video are included below them. Some pages are a direct connection of the mathematics to the real world. Others are more traditional but have a hands-on approach to help all learners – not just those who thrive in a lecture environment.
To all the students I did not completely satisfy with my answers I apologize. To others who are struggling with the question, I hope this website helps answer it, helps inspire you, and makes learning math fun.