Bridge the Gap

• # Bridge the Gap

By Timon Piccini, posted December 18, 2017 —

You are excited to present your awesome new conceptual tasks, but then you find out that the high school has never heard of army men. (See my previous posts.) What do you do? If you really want to feel accomplished in presenting new conceptual tasks, you will have to learn how to connect them to the pure mathematical world, the applied mathematical world, and your professional world.

## First, the Jargon

Let’s talk about vocabulary words. Precise vocabulary is important because it is helpful to understand the world around us and, more important, to share our ideas with others. When I teach my students how to write, I tell them they need to be clear, and it is no different in math. To bridge the concepts that we have developed in our students’ minds to some of the more abstract “pure math” concepts, it is essential that we teach them the accurate terminology.

## When Will I Use This in the Real World?

This query is everyone’s favorite. I am not scared of this question because I want my students to be asking it. However, I want them to be asking it in the positive, as a reflective question, more like “When can I use this in the real world?” The chance to engage where the math in the classroom meets the math outside the classroom is vital for developing students’ curiosity and investment. There are many resources to dive into, such as NCTM’s Illuminations, 3 Act Tasks, Mathalicious, and designing with Scratch. These resources will help students realize and recognize that learning matters for them here, now, and in the future.

## No Person Is an Island

These concepts do not appear in a vacuum. The reason I can think of half of what I have shared is because I have been connected with so many great math teachers over the years. Tweeting, blogging, scouring the Internet, and spending time interacting with others are good ways to see if an idea has legs. Try something. Do a bad version of it. Then get someone to help you make a better version of it. You will begin to see a change in the way that students begin to view math and learning in general. When you connect these tasks to your fellow professionals, you will build something that is greater than the sum of the parts. More so, you will develop in yourself the attitudes that we try to instill in our students: collaboration and growth.

If this all seems like too much, I encourage you to start small. We all need to start somewhere. If you can start, you can get to the point where dots start connecting, where the “real” world meets the “pure” world. It is worth it when you do.

Timon Piccini is an elementary school teacher who has a strong love of getting students to see that mathematics is more than just numbers. His favorite sound is when an entire grade 7 class cheers because they are starting to understand a base five number system (a true story). Piccini considers himself a jack of all trades, and when he is not teaching, he can be seen running, hiking, playing guitar, playing video games, and attending concerts, and pursuing just about anything to do with good food. He especially loves doing all this alongside his better half, Kelli.