Jan 152017
 

One question that comes ups often with math majors in the program is “Why do I have to take a computer science class?”

I am not sure where the official requirement comes from, but I can say that I am extremely thankful I had a computer programming class in college. It was over 20 years ago, and it was Pascal programming, but I am very happy that I still remember the skills I learned. I don’t remember anything about Pascal, but over the last 20 years, and especially the last three weeks, I have used the heck out of those skills.

When I was in business, the programming skills allowed me do some serious Excel sheets and data crunching that got me noticed and promoted.

As a teacher, those Excel skills allowed me to strip data from the PDF reports and turn those into useful files that we could actually mine for relevant data on our learners and their learning. Those skills also allowed me to learn basic HTML and CSS coding to build websites over a Christmas break and create multiple websites.

Now, as a master teacher I have spent several weeks building a very complex database in Access to manage our check in and check out process with the hundreds (soon to be thousands) of items in our teaching supply store room. To do this, I have had to teach myself Visual Basic, Access structure, as well as some basic SQL database language.

Now don’t get me wrong.I do not have anywhere near the skills to be paid to program in any of these languages, and it is taking me 5 times longer than a real programmer would take. But, because of that Pascal programming class 26 years ago I have the ability to learn the new skills, new languages, and troubleshoot the really bad code I am writing and make it better.

Why should today’s learners learn coding? Because if this dinosaur can reap these benefits out of the class over my career, then imagine what benefits our learners today will reap over the next 25 years! It only gets more important and more essential from here.

Aug 312016
 

The last #BlAugust post this year, and I wanted to end on some good things.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Monday was a banner day for me, full of firsts. I hit “Finalize” on my very first ever NSF grant. It is a Robert Noyce Scholarship grant that, if we get it, would be a $1.1 million dollar grant for scholarships for learners in the program I teach in. This is huge. 63 scholarships over 5 years of $10,000 each, as well as travel and other programs for the Noyce Scholars. It is in the feedback process at the school, but on 6 September the “Submit” button gets pressed. So exciting.

I also received notice on Monday that Megan Schmidt’s and my proposal for “Statistics & Social Justice” was accepted at the NCTM 2017 National Conference. This means that we are not speakers at both NCSM and NCTM 2017 Nationals. This is my first national speaking opportunity. I am very excited that I get to work with Megan on this.

I also taught the first section of Knowing & Learning in Mathematics & Science on Monday. This was the first 3 credit course that I have been able to teach at the University. Even more special, is the fact that I was allowed to plan the course from the beginning. So, as a doc student, my CV now says that I built a University course. How cool it that!

Then, walking across campus yesterday, 3 amazing young women ran up to me and gave me hugs. These were juniors in high school when they were my learners, and they had just finished their first day of college. Their excitement and wanting to tell me about it was so amazing to experience. And then, a former learner who is in her senior year of high school at a community college program messaged me this:

Hey Mr. Waddell! I hope that you are doing well! I just wanted to let you know that I am taking a Math 122 class (for Elementary Education Majors) and our professor today reminded me of you and some of your classroom policies but also your view on math that still sticks with me and that is that there is no one way to do a problem…because of this, our professor does not use the word ‘step.’ Instead, he says ‘move.’ So like, “what’s the next move you are going to take?” Anyways, I know I’ve said it a million times, but thank you again for being such an awesome math teacher and helping me love math again.

Having experiences like this just reinforces the fact that it is about connections, not content. It is about people, not math. The math will come, the learners will want to learn math when we teach them as people and make connections with them.

Finally, the we are starting off the year with a new member of the team at UNR. We have a third Master Teacher with us, and we are all working together very well. The hiccups that come with a new member joining a team have been small and inconsequential. Working with terrific people is such a rewarding experience, and it will make this year go by quickly.

But I hope not too fast. I want to enjoy this for a while.

An remember, Be Awesome to One Another! Always.