Math is Linda Segar’s “favorite” subject to teach. Before joining D-E’s faculty, Linda taught at the Town School in New York City for ten years and then was the math specialist at the Rockland County Day School. Now in her 11th year at D-E, Linda continues to find math inspiring, “Middle School is the beginning of so many things. It’s not the beginning of mathematical problem solving, but there’s an emphasis on multi-step problems and how to approach them.”
Math in the Middle School is unique in that it builds upon the principles of Singapore Math and bridges that approach into the Upper School’s IMM (Integrated Math and Modeling) program. While students are learning algebra, integers, exponents, proportions and more, they are utilizing their knowledge through problem sets. Working through a problem set of five to ten questions offers practice to challenge what they know and how they know it.
At the same time, Middle School comes with its own challenges. By the time students enter sixth grade, they are vocal about their aversion to math, often parroting stereotypes about learning math from what they’ve consumed in the media. Nevertheless, Linda takes their opinions with grace, “In my head I think, ‘Ok, I’m glad to hear you all hate angles,’ “ Linda laughs, “and part of that is really great because their honesty really is a gift.”
And in-class collaboration is one of the techniques that Linda employs to ease that process. While students are working together on problem sets or presenting to the class, discussions begin to bloom as students come to realize how they each can contribute despite their ideas of “not being the best math student.”
Linda recognizes that there are growing pains to learning, “I think students put a lot of pressure on themselves to be great at everything. I tell them that, even for me, when I was in school, writing an essay was not easy, but that didn’t mean that I stopped writing,” Linda continues, “so I try to put things into context that they can understand. I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I expect them to try!”
Teaching math is just as much about understanding concepts as it is about confidence. Whatever mood her class might be in, Linda knows that with a little bit of patience, class collaboration, and review, math can be less and less intimidating, if not fun to learn!