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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Masterful Teacher: Jonathan Winn Makes Calculus Cool

Jonathan Winn, San Diego's 2011 High School Teacher of the Year, has developed a high voltage classroom atmosphere that inspires students to get excited about math and excel at AP calculus. More about Jonathan Winn.
Transcript

Masterful Teacher: How Calculus Became the Most Popular Class on Campus (Transcript)

Jonathan Winn: You ready?

Student: Yes.

Everybody: Jets!

Jonathan Winn: Was that our best one?

Everybody: Yes!

Jonathan Winn: Really? Okay, I thought it was pretty good. Seven easy steps. Step by step goes the marching band. Dang it, I keep putting that down.

Student: Here.

Jonathan Winn: Here. Step one, you already know it.

Everybody: Write what you know.

Jonathan Winn: Write what you know. The student body definitely is low income. Ninety five percent of the students here qualify for free or reduced lunch. They represent what the world is really like, the diversity of the world. Not only the world, but the future of the world. The world is mixing together.

Carl Munn: What do we do with the variable?

Carl Munn: So is this gonna be x squared?

Everybody: No.

Carl Munn: No.

Jonathan Winn: I got involved in this school a few years ago because I noticed some really powerful instruction that was happening in the algebra class.

Carl Munn: This is where students, they either get this stuff right now and they get confident with it, or they don't really spend-- take the time to get really good at this, and then they don't like math. They get frustrated. They stop coming to school.

Jonathan Winn: Yeah, I basically copied everything Mr. Munn does from his curriculum planning to his instructional strategies and infuse some of my own things and took some things from a number of other great teachers that I had encountered and observed, and I'm just using them. They're just things that work.

Carl Munn: We're gonna spend a lotta time with this and make sure that everyone really gets this before you—

You know, what used to happen here was my kids would get a pretty experience in my class and then they'd move on to the next coupla classes and it just-- it was like they just went right back off the cliff.

Perfect, perfect, perfect.

And having John here now, it's like I know, once they're done in this room, you know, they're going to end up in his intermediate and pre cal class. And we have this now Capstone calculus course which is just generating so much excitement, and it's the most popular class.

Jonathan Winn: It's a big old fraction. Okay, so you're gonna start with a quotient--

What you see up here on the stage is just a mix of techniques, all proven techniques.

How's that one go?

Jonathan Winn: No, no, no, no.

I want them yelling things out loud and I wanna go outside and hear it, so that other people on campus can hear it, just get it shaken up a little bit.

How's that one go

Jonathan Winn: Thank you.

When it comes to specific techniques to meet the needs of let's say English learners, there's some specific things that, you know, color coordination, that type of thing.

First is F. Oh, wrong color. F doesn't change.

There's this girl, Sokna and she said to me 'Mr. Winn, I don't understand anything you're saying in class, but I watch what's going on on the board, and that's how I learn it.' And she's a top student.

So now we know what it is. Now let's make sure we can use it.

Sokna: Mr. Winn, he is easy for me to understand what he try to tell, but actually, I didn't really pay attention to him, but I just look at how he did on the problem and then I just copy it and then I try to do it and I get right.

Jonathan Winn: It's kind of like a little calculus jingle, low di high minus high di low, all over low low.

The stuff that we do in here, whether it's a skit, whether it’s a marching band problem, whether it's some kinda interactive thing or hands on thing, it may or may not help that much with understanding the topic, but I think it makes class fun.

Woman: Gottfried. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, where are you, son?

Jonathan Winn: All over H.

I saw this little thing about Leibniz in 1675 on vacation in Paris. I thought it was hilarious that he was doing calculus in Paris, on vacation, which is, strangely enough, I've done that plenty of times on vacation, doing calculus. And so I called Becky up, say, 'You got a wig? You got a puffy shirt? Let's do this.'

Woman: You, ever since your father died when you were six, you doing the things with the numbers all the time on the pieces of paper.

Jonathan Winn: Oh mother, be quiet.

Woman: Oh, please, please--

Jonathan Winn: For a student to come to a class and to always feel like something like that could happen. I feel like that's the type of thing that may encourage a student to sort of be on the edge of their seat. And that's how I want them. I want them, the second they walk in, ready to go. On the edge of their seat the whole time. Bell rings, that's when you stop working.

When a group of people, 100 people out there, you, are all doing something, it doesn't even matter what, but if we're doing it at the same time, like reading off low di high minus high di low over low, low, saying that together is a way to practice our strengths.

Erica: My definition of a teacher is just, teaching the lesson and making sure that your students understand the materials that are taught. But sometime he stayed here with us until seven or eight o'clock at night, doing math, and I think that's an amazing thing.

Everybody: Crawford!

Jonathan Winn: Nice.

In a lotta ways, I use the ocean as kinda like a way to like just wash off the day, you know, like wash off the costume. I take off my tie. You know, I'm taking off the hat. Mr. Winn hat is being hung up for the day. Put that costume in the closet and, you know, it's back to John. And so for me, it's really important to have some little ritual that gets performed at the end of every professional day. Being out in the water tends to be a really important experience for me on a regular basis. Being on the edge of that wave, being on the edge of, you know, potentially falling off and getting crunched-- and I've been out there where I've taken a bad fall and being in a really tough situation, underwater and having to basically figure it out in that moment, and almost like a-- kind of like a life or death situation. And I don't think calculus is life or death for the students, but I do think that when you're faced with a really tough problem, you either have the skills and the capacity to rise up, or you don't. And I believe that the key is self belief.

What do we know?

Jonathan Winn: Okay, we know a whole bunch of stuff. We'd better do them one at a time. Just put up a hand. Right there, what's something you know?

For me, it's really important to have consistency, and really setting the tone that instructional minutes are valuable, and we're not going to waste a single one. This is serious business. And they're getting that homework done and they're working hard in class and they're asking questions. Why? Because this is serious business, and it makes the teaching day wonderful.

Finish solving this system with substitution and take a look up here at what I have and make sure you have the same thing. Go.

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Credits

Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Editor:

  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer:

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew:

  • Jeff Freeman
  • Rebecca Usnik

Additional Camera:

  • Doug Keely
  • Ken Ellis

Video Programming Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

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