Cones made by an 8 year-old

Options for Mathematics Education Expanding in Portsmouth

Darren TappEducation

Cones made by an 8 year-old

Cones made by an 8 year-old during the Playground Series

Since November I have been creating what I call “Dr. Tapp’s Mathematical Playgrounds.”  This is a project where I meet with 6 to 9 year-olds once a week and promote mathematical and geometric concepts to them.  In this exciting seven months I have witnessed the students learn how to add and now have started multiplying two digit numbers by one digit numbers.  Geometry has been interspersed into activities to keep students engaged.  Almost all of the geometry is hands on, this is to remove layers of abstraction for young learners.  When I have time, I write up a few pages about the mathematical concepts, usually with exercises.  It’s so rewarding to see the young people read what I write.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am expanding my offerings.  Starting on Wednesday September 2nd I will offer a course I am calling Algebra and Trigonometry.  I expect this course to run for fourteen months and cover Algebra and Trigonometry in alternating two month periods. The syllabus for the first two months is detailed and available for review.

This course is intended to be a bridge course to several other subjects in mathematics.  This course could prepare a student for an engineering level calculus course.  However, I recommend studying geometry and linear algebra first.  This course is also to serve as an introduction to proofs.  Mathematical proofs are something lacking from standard high school curriculum. I promote mathematical proofs as a way of encouraging critical thinking, and deductive reasoning. The text books are written by I.M. Gelfand, and have a delightful style. Gelfand was a professional mathematician who wrote a series of books appropriate for the high school level. One reason I chose these books is that they seems to have a good balance of computation and proof.  There are also questions that help approach the subject, “What if” type questions.

This course deviates from the playground style for the younger students. This is a serious course with homework. However, because of the approach to teaching that I’m taking. The homework will determine what needs more review rather than any specific grade. Students will be encouraged to ask any questions about unfinished homework and we will work on it together when appropriate. Having mathematics classes without grades is consistent with my desire to remove anxiety from the mathematics classroom.  If a student would like his level accessed then I can draw from the many tests I’ve written teaching college, perhaps with some adaptation.

If you know someone who might like this course, please check out the course page. There, you can also find the syllabus(PDF).  The course will meet only twice a week Monday and Wednesday from 5:15 to 6:45pm at the Praxeum in Portsmouth.