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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Kay Butler

Although I started back to college as a non-traditional student in my 30's thinking I'd be a 1st grade teacher like my mom, my peers encouraged me to go into mathematics whenever I'd help them learn how to solve their homework problems. So . . . after completing my Associate Degree at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, I took calculus for fun and the rest is history . . . or should I say mathematics! :) Next, I earned a double major in education (mathematics and biology) at Nicholls State University in Thibodeaux, where my calculus professor (Dr. Scott Beslin, now head of the mathematics department at NSU) encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in mathematics. After two more years of mathematics at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, I transferred to curriculum and instruction - I wanted to teach in the real world, not conduct research in the abstract world of mathematics. After receiving my Master's Degree in secondary mathematics education and my Education Specialist in gifted education, I began teaching. (With two of my children in college and a third nearing her college years, I had to join the ranks of the working class to help pay the bills!)

My first seven years were quite demanding as I taught at seven different schools in seven different districts. Finally, in 2004 I found my niche in education - I was encouraged and selected to be a founding teacher of what has become Patrick F Taylor Science and Technology Regional Academy. It has not been easy! Teaching in a high-tech environment while implementing different ways of teaching within newly designed curricula put me in a dual role: learner and facilitator: (1) Small Group Investigations using the TI-84 in the Core Plus Mathematics Program, (2) Project-Based Learning in traditional mathematics courses within our newly organized New Tech model, (3) a return to incorporate Inquiry and Problem-Based Learning in mathematics, now using the TI-NSpire, (4) Project-Based Activities and Computer-Aided Design using Autodesk Inventor in our Project Lead the Way Pre-engineering courses, (5) interactive teaching and learning using a Promethean board, PowerPoints, and flip charts, and (6) implementing and modifying new methods such as "flipping the class." It was time-consuming and difficult, but I'm thankful for my experiences - they have helped me become more knowledgeable, flexible and understanding as a teacher, as well as more confident and compassionate as an individual. So, while many teachers seem to be intimidated by the recent reform movement to implement the Common Core Curriculum State Standards . . . I say "Let's go!! I'm ready!!"

Although I'm usually ready, quite often . . . many of my students are not! They are usually resistant to thinking (it's too hard), analyzing (it requires thinking), and especially problem solving (it requires reading and analyzing and thinking)! So, instead of easy, mindless review of prior content, my courses and my units begin with questions that require my students to integrate previous mathematical content and skills, thereby requiring them to THINK about and ANALYZE their understanding of the mathematics they encountered in previous courses. Through these connections my students can deepen their understanding and construct foundational knowledge that will serve them well in my course and in the future.

With online support from organizations and websites like Edutopia, educators can work together to improve teaching and learning in the US by sharing what has worked best for us!

Areas of Interest: 
Problem Solving - Geometry - Computer Aided Drafting

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