Posted by: rdkpickle | 01.03.2012

pause button

One thing that I really miss from my experience of studying mathematics in college was the feeling of preparing really well for, then taking (and acing) a tough exam.

There was just something supremely satisfying about having a concrete metric for where my hard work over the course of a semester had gotten me. Getting an A on a final was a ribbon to wrap up a few months of study. Afterwards, I could file my notes and tests for the class, put the book on the shelf, and feel good about taking a winter (or summer) break.

Now that I am teaching, the story of my semester ends not with a nicely wrapped denouement but with a mostly awkward pause at best. After the tough, no-break-in-sight months of October and November, December kind of snuck in and snuck back out without much fanfare at all. We learned some new things in Precalculus and Algebra 2 Trig Honors, we reviewed some, and then exams were upon us (with the math exam given last Tuesday.) Since then, I have proctored, planned, graded, and quietly made my way back to Nashville.

Despite the myriad items still lingering on my to-do list for break, it’s time to force myself to hit pause and try to evaluate how this semester went. And as much as I might crave the simplicity of someone stamping a letter grade on my work so far this year, teaching is never going to be that black and white. Instead, I am forced to be reflective about my teaching, and seek opportunities for honest feedback.

(note: apparently I couldn’t hit pause long enough to actually finish this post while on break. great.)

I spent about two hours over the break working on a list of good things and bad things from this semester. Many things to be proud of, many more places where I need to seek improvement. It’s a little bit too personal (and specific) to post here, but it was an absolutely worthwhile endeavor. Now that someone has hit the play button again (all too soon) I think I might be ready for the hard part: making changes where I reasonably can.



  1. Hi, Rachel,

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we’re putting together. “The Number Hunter” is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter — bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We’re teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you’d be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We’re also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,


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