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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Math Education Professor Dor Abrahamson: Making Math Meaningful (Video)

Zachary Fink

Edutopia's Former Director of Video Programming

You should know right up front, I'm not a math guy. Left to my own devices, wandering the halls of just about any school, I gravitate to the social studies and art project rooms. It's not that I'm afraid of mathematics, I just like the stuff I can grab onto. Math always seemed too intangible.

Dor Abrahamson, the University of California Assistant Professor of Cognition and Development is a math guy. I met him in a Skype video chat, when, in his inimitable animated fashion, he talked me through his theories about using manipulables to teach math and the significance of embodied learning. He went on to describe new technology he's using to help students embody ratio and proportion. I was impressed, not least by the sheer kinesthetic force of his enthusiasm, though I tried to impress on him how little I understood about math. To which he responded with the following illustration, captioned: "Is this your level of mathematical competence?"

After adding sense of humor to his roster of virtues, we set up a date for him and me and the camera.

As you see in the video, Dor is more than a funny, pumped-up professor. He is onto something profound about mathematics, something truly de-mystifying, especially for give-me-something-I-can-grab-onto kids like me, tip-toeing for the first time into the mysterious world of numbers.

Zachary Fink

Edutopia's Former Director of Video Programming
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Comments (4)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ruby Chukwuelue's picture

As someone who struggled with math growing up, I love what Professor Dor Abrahamson is trying to do. I decided to teach math after I fell in love with it in college, it took me that long to understand the subject so I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I did not just give up on it when I could not grasp on to the idea of how the numbers merged with reality. I also had a great teacher in my junior year in college that brought math to light by the way he related it to everything I could think of. I am now a middle school math teacher and my daily quest is how to connect my student's understanding to not just the abstract numbers in math but to how every topic translates in the real world. Kudos Professor Dor Abrahamson.

Debbie Milton's picture
Debbie Milton
4th grade math teacher

I did love math in school but my friends struggled. I want to help my students make that connection to real world problems. I want them to enjoy doing math. I am trying to come up with as many hands-on activities for learning new concepts as I can. If you have any suggestions, especially multiplication, I would deeply appreciate it.

Nelson Franqui's picture
Nelson Franqui
Algebra II and Precalculus teacher

Hi Debbie
I would suggest to use area problems to practice muyltiplication, even with fractions. Yous ee, if they built a rectangular grid and calculate how many squares are inside, they'll figure out the area formula for rectangles. Then change the measurings of the sides, using fractions. For example: Create a rectangle that is 3 by 5 but, instead of dividing in 3, divide in 12, which means, each segment is 1/4. The other side in 16, for the same reason. Whenb multiplying, they will see how multiplication with fractions work.
Good luck !

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