Summer vacation is almost here, and I can’t wait for the adventures to unfold! My summers usually consist of rest, relaxation and teaching workshops. My hopes of improving my practice are rarely fulfilled when the students come through the doors in September. Yet this summer will be different and I am so excited! This year I received a Funds for Teachers grant that will make all the difference. I will travel to Spain and Portugal to collect data and visual images from geometrically rich and culturally relevant sites to enhance geometry curriculum.
I realized that incorporating real-world illustrations of geometry into the curriculum would allow me to address three critical barriers to learning mathematics in my classroom: lack of interest in mathematics, language barriers, and cultural barriers. My students (all English Language Learners) depend on visual stimulation to move beyond the language barrier and relate to the content. Incorporating real-world visual illustrations of geometry that are familiar and inherently interesting will allow me to build and sustain my students’ interest in learning math.
I teach geometry in a multi-lingual classroom of ELL students new to our country. My class comprises students from 12 different countries that speak several different languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and several Creole languages. Each student brings a rich culture and unique set of experiences to the classroom, creating an opportunity for a true multi-cultural education environment. However, every day I face the challenge of students creating division between the different nationalities. In considering the universal role of geometry across time and cultures, I realized that connecting the material to real-world examples from many cultures would allow me to emphasize both the unity and diversity of cultural experiences and work to create an environment of belonging, openness, and acceptance.
This professional development opportunity is more than I ever thought would be possible. This opportunity will make a world of difference in connecting my students to the content and to make their experience rich and meaningful! A teacher’s enthusiasm has the power to make or break a student’s view of a content area. I love teaching ELL’s and I love teaching math, yet I admit that after 9 years my spark isn’t quite as bright as it once was. Sharing the pictures, videos, and stories from this trip and infusing these into the curriculum will breathe new life into math class for me and my students.