As of this summer, the summer of 2012, I am qualified to teach mathematics at the high school level in the state of Michigan. I am expecting to be doing so full-time this fall. I am also qualified to teach English, but so far my major focus has been on mathematics, and that’s also the focus of this particular site. Thus, most of my posts will pertain to teaching, to mathematics, and to teaching mathematics.
In my still-nascent experience in education, I’ve noticed there appear to be two sorts of new teachers: Those who are fairly young, if not fresh out of college, and those who are in the middle of their adult lives, who have spent some period of time in one or more other career fields and who now are drawn to education. I am of the latter sort. I spent too long in graduate school directly from college (studying to become a professor of Linguistics, but not reaching that goal), then spent over a decade in Corporate America working with market research data and doing computer programming intermittently, and now find myself ready to embark on a new career in secondary education.
I provide this background to explain my perspectives and approach. Many mathematicians are content to work in the realm of numbers; some mathematicians shy away from or even snort at notions of language and literacy. They read and write just enough to get their jobs done. When I was teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) during my first stint in graduate school, we teachers had the most trouble with foreign students who were coming in for Teaching Assistantships in mathematics: In their opinion, why did they need to speak fluent English? After all, mathematics is a universal language.
However, I have always had split interests: I have degrees in humanities and mathematics. I enjoy writing and reading, and I enjoy mathematical puzzles and challenges. Language fascinates me, and so does mathematics. I see mathematics on multiple tiers: As pure theory, and as a complex system of communication comparable to (but not identical to) natural language. It is possible to master mathematical theory without understanding any specific language, but it is difficult to truly appreciate the complexity of mathematical representation without having a sense of how it is expressed on an interpersonal (and thus linguistic) level.
My hope in this blog will be that I will generally capture that balance. I want to have a place to reflect on my own learning and discoveries as a grow as an educator. At times, I will be like a magpie discovering some shiny tidbit; at other times, I will don professorial robes and wax eruditely on some aspect of pedagogy or other; at yet others, I will find myself questioning the grand purpose.
I hope it will be an interesting and productive ride.