Mathematical role models

Heather Bolles, senior lecturer in mathematics, stands at a blackboard with a student, explaining the definition of derivative at a point of the graph.
Heather Bolles, senior lecturer in mathematics, explains the definition of derivative at a point of the graph to a student.
Photo by Blake Lanser.
Portrait of Elizabeth Doebel leaning against a doorway.
Elizabeth Doebel.

Elizabeth Doebel (’15 mathematics, ‘16 M.S. education) teaches sixth through eighth grade math, including pre-algebra and geometry, at the International Community School (ICS) in Singapore.

What I learned at ISU “As a graduate student, I took a class on teaching geometry across all grade levels. Everything in the class was hands-on and interactive, which is something I now try to model in my classroom. While covering surface area and volume of three-dimensional figures, I have my students create the nets of these figures with paper and then recreate them using software such as GeoGebra.”

A+ Classroom Strategy “The thrill that comes from competition motivates my students to participate and do their best, so I try to structure my content to fit existing games. However, my favorite games are the ones I create, drawing ideas from shows like ‘The Price is Right’ or ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ ‘Secret Word.’”

Rewards of Math education “I became a math teacher because I wanted to develop in students a love and appreciation for math. During parent-teacher conferences, some parents told me that their child talks about the activities we do in class and how much they enjoy math now because they’re good at it and see its purpose in the real world.”

Math Matters because . . . “Without it, everything else would fall into disarray.”

Portrait of Alex Halverson.
Alex Halverson.
Alex Halverson (‘12 mathematics) has taught geometry and Algebra I at Spencer High School in Spencer, Iowa, for one year.

What I learned at ISU “I learned many of the skills and strategies to successfully manage my classroom. Additionally, ways to use different technologies was a major take away from ISU.”

Favorite Math Moment “When the students were working on designing and budgeting a house using area and volume. They were very excited to show their final products, and it was a great way for them to use the math concepts in real world applications. They enjoyed it very much!”

A+ Classroom Strategy “A new strategy we are about to implement is the idea of a ‘no front’ classroom. Instead of the traditional whiteboard and projector up front, we will have televisions on the walls around the room along with additional whiteboards. Then, I will be able to display content from my tablet onto the televisions. I look forward to this strategy because it helps me move around the room during instruction time and gives students more flexibility in how they want the classroom to be.”

Math Matters because . . . “It is used in almost every profession and it is a wonderful tool to build problem-solving and perseverance skills that people use daily.”

Portrait of Keanon Lewis.
Keanon Lewis.
Keanon Lewis (‘16 mathematics) is a high school math teacher at Southwest Valley High School in Corning, Iowa, and teaches Algebra I, Algebra IA, consumer math and geometry.

Favorite Math Moment “My favorite math moment was throwing stuff out the window in algebra classes to model the path of quadratic functions. And to watch the stuff go splat.”

A+ Classroom Strategy “Any time students are out of their seats being productive is a win. I try to mix individual, partner and small group work and encourage tons of respectful arguments among students to ensure they understand and explain the concept and process. It’s also important to me to include activities for students to apply their knowledge in an engaging and competitive situation.”

What I want students to take away from my class . . . “I hope my students can think critically to solve problems in real life situations. I also want them to identify patterns and similarities to other problems that help them choose appropriate solution methods.”

Math Matters because . . . “It teaches you to find and create solutions that aren’t inherently obvious. Math also teaches you to construct explanations, defenses and arguments that are logically sound. Also, you can find when the trains meet.”

Portrait of Elizabeth Todd outside.
Elizabeth Todd.
Elizabeth Todd (’13 mathematics) has been teaching middle school math for three years. She teaches eighth grade math, compacted math and Algebra I for eighth graders at Southeast Polk Junior High in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, specializing in teaching accelerated students.

What I learned at ISU “I remember learning about Depth of Knowledge in Heather Bolles’ classroom. This helped me understand what type of questions will deepen conceptual understanding for students. So perhaps instead of asking students to find the volume of a cylinder given a radius and height, students will be given a volume and come up with three different cylinders that would have that volume.”

What I want students to take away from my class “That any and every student can learn mathematics. Just because you don’t get it right away doesn’t mean you never will. I hope students learn perseverance and learn to stick with something even when it gets hard. I hope they learn to appreciate some aspect of mathematics and see its value, even if it’s not directly related to their future career.”

Math matters because . . . “Math develops reasoning skills, logic and critical thinking. It engages your brain and is exciting to work on with your peers. Some of my best relationships (including my now husband!) have developed over a love of mathematics.”

By Lauren Vespa