Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Square Root Day Takes the (Carrot) Cake

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Square Root Day Takes the (Carrot) Cake

Article excerpt

Today is Square Root Day (4/4/16), a holiday that comes around only when calendar matches the square root equivalent (in this case, 4 times 4 equals 16). Similar to serving up pie on annual Pi Day (3/ 14) some math classes may have taken the opportunity to liven up lessons today by digging into carrot cake or other "root" vegetable- based delicacies.

Making mathematics more fun to the average student has challenged teachers throughout the decades. Many may never come close to the results that Jaime Escalante, the exceptional math teacher made famous in the 1988 film, "Stand and Deliver," achieved with his standout calculus students in troubled East Los Angeles, Calif. But through support networks and innovation in the classroom, math and science teachers are figuring out how to help students discover the rewards of learning.

For example, Math For America (MFA) offers 1,000 fellowships annually in New York City. These fellowships keep exceptional math and science teachers in the classroom while giving them a $15,000 stipend and engaging them in a teacher-to-teacher continuing education program, which involves being mentored by other exceptional educators.

In a YouTube video MFA asked students and teachers to answer: "What makes a good math teacher?" Answers ranged from "A teacher who pushes you to understand the question but doesn't give you the answer," to "A good math teacher should definitely have a lot of patience."

One of those teachers is Molly Shabica, a biology teacher at New York's South Bronx Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School.

"[She] took lots of kids who come from homeless shelters, free lunch programs, and other places and she got them interested in studying a certain kind of bacteria, says John Ewing, MFA president. "Then she somehow got the money for microscopes and hooked these kids up with university researchers. She ended up getting these kids doing what, basically, is research," he says. "And you find that kind of story being replicated dozens and dozens of times in both math and science."

The secret to making math exciting and understandable, Mr. Ewing says, boils down to this formula: "Know and love mathematics. …

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