A couple weekends ago, I was able to be a math coach for Rockford’s Math Club at the Math-team-matics Competition at GVSU. Earlier in the year, a group of students decided they wanted to bring the math club back out of retirement, where it has been for the last few years. Their love of math is infectious and inspiring.
As we walked into the competition, one of the students said “I just hope we don’t get last.” For their first ever competition, I would say that was a reasonable goal. Throughout the day, I didn’t get to follow the Rockford math team, but I got to follow Northview. Seeing these students made me remember why I wanted to become a teacher and why I fell in love with math. For an entire day, each of these students put other plans on hold in order to do math. And they had SO much fun. I think that somewhere, along the way, the fun has gotten sucked out of a lot of mathematics classrooms. But, sometime in our lives, every math teacher had that moment where they fell in love with math, with the pure enjoyment of it. We need to bring that back into the classroom.
The students at Grand Valley that day were inspiring, to say the least. But they were also incredibly impressive. The challenges that were thrown at them weren’t easy, but they were able to use their reasoning skills and their creativity to work through the problems. One of my goals as a mathematics teacher is to be able to challenge students and to force them to think creatively and reason their way through problems. Classrooms should be more like this. They should throw problems at students that encourage them to think, to reason, and to be inspired.
As much as I took away from this experience as a teacher, I think the greatest benefit was seeing how happy it made my students to be a part of the competition. They were so excited that I agreed to take them and they were having so much fun all day. Their goal of not placing in last was achieved. They took third! This was such a huge accomplishment for them and I could not be more proud.