Whole Math Teacher Blog

All teaching is affected by what is going on inside the teacher’s mind and body and by what is going on in the rest of the world that forms the context in which the teaching takes place. Here I share some thoughts and feelings.

A Few Practical Strategies that Helped me Teach with a Chronic Illness

Note: This is the second post in my series on teaching with a chronic illness. Here is the introduction to the series.

When you have a chronic illness and a job, by definition you work when you are sick. Before I went on medical leave, I struggled every day to balance my desire to take care of myself with my desire to keep my job and do it well. Sometimes the balance felt impossible, and eventually it became so, but along the way I found some strategies that genuinely helped. I share some of them below.


Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze

Last night I went to see the play Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze, written and performed by Gioia De Cari.   Gioia and I were friends at MIT – we both started the Math PhD program in 1984.   She left a few years later with a Master’s, moving on to pursue music and acting;  I held on, staying halfway in and halfway out of MIT, finally finishing my PhD in 1992.  The play helped us reconnect after twenty years.   Read more >>

Is Teaching Math Easy or Hard: Comments on a State Meeting

Is teaching math to kids easy?   Should any reasonably intelligent person who can do “plus, times, minus, and divide” be able to start teaching elementary math tomorrow, skipping college math and all those waste-of-time education classes?  Could most smart people, if they decided to stop doing the sorts of jobs that smart people do (not elementary school teaching), walk in and immediately do a better job than most elementary teachers are currently doing?

Or, is teaching math to kids hard?   Besides all the things that make teaching elementary school hard in general – planning engaging lessons for every subject, managing classroom behavior, addressing the needs of different children, creating partnerships with parents, preparing for tests, etc. – is there some special mathematical knowledge and pedagogical knowledge that teachers need in order to help students understand fractions and multiplication, or learn how to get started on a problem they’ve never seen before?   Read more >>