View Lessons by Category > Gender Consciousness > Math
(Statistics): When I was in my senior year Advanced Placement statistics class I discovered a teacher, I will never forget. I had never worked with her before, I did not know her style, and I did not think I would enjoy the class. Somehow, after a week of classes, I had found a class I adored, a teacher who I respected, and the motivation to do whatever it took to succeed. She not only kept us engaged by challenging the class, asking questions, and demanding the most of our intelligence, but she also taught us valuable life lessons. “Don't apologize for asking a question.” “No, it isn't stupid” and “Be confident” were repeated mantras in class. The teacher did not simply interest, engage, or motivate, but challenged us to be confident, mature, and to be unafraid to ask a question in order to succeed.
After teaching Algebra 2 for a couple of years (to 10th and 11th graders) I realized that I was working so hard to reiterate and elaborate on the nuances of conic sections to a point of exhaustion. Then, when all was said and done, the girls still were missing the big picture and most of the details as well. I had been thinking about the fact that I never really understood all of this until I taught it either. Therefore, I decided that the girls should teach one another about conic sections. There are 4 conic sections, so I divided the girls in to groups of 4 or 5 and gave them each a conic section on which to become a master. They were given a couple of class periods to prepare. They found lectures online, they actually read their textbook (the first time all year for many), and asked me a lot of questions. They worked practice problems and were very nervous about presenting their material. As the first group began their presentation the connections were evident throughout the room. The girls were presenting circles and each of the other students were noticing the similarities to their upcoming presentation. Yes, the “teachers” made mistakes but the funny part was that the other girls caught these before I had to say a word. Some of the weakest students in the class turned out to be the best at explaining the hardest things because they talked about it in a way that made sense to them which made it abundantly clear to the others. They girls assigned homework problems to the class and even provided me with a set of possible test questions over their material. I was able to make a practice test and the actual chapter test from their pool of problems. Some girls loved this project and others complained because they thought it was unfair that I didn’t “teach” them the information. However, I found their performance on the test to be far better than in previous years. Their retention was also fantastic. We covered Conics in January of Algebra 2. I had many of these students again the next year in Pre-calculus where we covered Conics in April. I spent about 20 minutes refreshing them on the material before they began filling in all of the blanks for me and they were extremely excited and proud to talk about “their conic section.”