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San Clemente, CA, United States

Monday, May 26, 2014

So you want to be a Math Teacher?

So you want to teach high school math?  Great, sit down for a minute and lets talk. 

How well did you do in college majoring in Mathematics?  What?  You didn't major in Math?  You majored in Theatrical Production?  What in the name of Zeus' Beard are you doing here?  

Oh, I see, because of the lack of Math majors and the increasing demand for Math teachers, the State of California will credential an applicant to teach high school Math with either a Mathematics degree or the passing of 3 tests.  

So, you passed 3 tests and now you are a credentialed Math teacher?  What??? You didn't pass all three tests?   You passed only 2 and still you can teach?  Ah, I see,  passing only 2 allows you to teach up to Algebra 2, but not Pre-Calculus and above.  

Wait, what does the 3rd test cover?  Calculus?  You can't do Calculus?  You didn't take Calculus in either high school or college but you can teach Math on the high school level?  

My problem with your situation is addressed almost every day in every classroom.  First, how do you possibly answer "how will I ever use this" if you have never used this?  Second, I don't believe in just giving students formulas.  The volume of a right cylinder is V= π(r squared)h.  The curious student, and I was, and I see them every year, ask, "where does that formula come from?"  Door open.  I ALWAYS take the time to then derive the formula for the students.  For the above, I would first show that the volume can be found using a technique called "slicing" and second, I would derive the volume using the Disk Method of Volumes of Rotation in Calculus.  Most, including the kid that asked, will be lost quickly, but to some,  the few, the proud, the future,....it will open a door to great possibilities. They will stay after class and ask to see the derivation of other formulas.  Then i have them.  I show how to find volume a 3rd way.  By integrating Surface Area.   Rocking and shocking and wonderful mathematics that all begin to come together in "the Calculus".  

Go back to school.  Take a Calculus class.  No, take 5.  Differential Calculus, Integral Calculus, Vector (also called Multivariable) Calculus, and Differential Equations.  Then take a History of Mathematics class.  

Then come see me.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013


A quick note to all young adults.   Hell,  a quick note to everyone.

As you progress in your lives, as you apply for different jobs, it might be smart to clear your Facebook and Instagram pages of anything that doesn't portray you in the way you want to be portrayed.   I'm sure your "besties" will be "cray cray" bummed that the "adorns" pictures of you holding the bong isn't your profile pic anymore, but you might want to consider it.

I'm looking for a long-term sub to replace a teacher going out on maternity.  I got the name of a couple of subs in the district who might be good.  I looked at both their Facebook pages.   One had lovely pictures of her young daughter and husband hiking, biking, birthday partying, etc.  The other had a young woman, who in only four pictures, had 3 alcoholic beverages, 2 shots of guys giving the camera the finger, 1 open mouth tongue shot, and my personal favorite, the Miley Cyrus halloween costume.

Hmmm....who should I contact first?

I really don't have a problem with any of the behaviors of contestant number 2.  Well I do, but I wouldn't hold someones free time against them.  I absolutely believe in the need to "blow off steam."  I have a problem with her decision to post the photos. It just isn't smart if she is looking for work.  Looking for work in a school.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


More and more, as I talk with parents and students and random people I meet, I'm often told, "oh, I love your blog."

It always rocks me a little.  I kind of like it, but mostly I don't.   I really don't know why I write, but it isn't to be read.  I get embarrassed when people read my works.  As a mathematician, I can compete.  As a writer, I feel inferior.

Add to that, I only write when I'm angry.  Not always proud of how I feel or what I write after a bout with Mr. Temper.

Off subject, shut up with the Thanksgiving cliche crap I heard today.  "In times of need, be buoyed up by those around you who love you."   Shut up.  Drag your depressed butt out of bed, get in the shower, and go to work.  Everyone gets depressed.  You don't get special treatment cause you think your depression is greater.  Buoy yourself.

We come into this world alone and we better figure out in our heads how to be alone and to handle our own business, because at the end of the day, we are again alone....82 years old...grown kids 500 miles away.... crappy little assisted living apartment... mean and fat nurse who hates you... yeah...

And shut up about the Christmas season.  We should be kind and generous all year long.  Kind and generous?  Not if you shop at Walmart.   Not if you camp out overnight for a big screen TV.  Kind and generous?  Yeah...shut up.

And take those stupid antler ears off your car.  Just don't.

And if I say "thank you", stop saying "no worries."  How about "you're welcome".

And quit dressing the age you want to be.  Old people like me should NOT be wearing acid washed jeans or juicy sweats or Jason Mraz hats.  Stop it.

And to those of you that read... Thank you....I think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

At the Shops in Mission Viejo Mall

Random thoughts after going shopping for a pair of gloves over the weekend.

It is a requirement when asking a store clerk where to find the men's gloves to hold both hands out, palms facing away, and wiggle ones fingers.  I caught myself doing it in the 3rd store.   Couldn't not wiggle in stores 4 and 5.

It is not ok not to know if you carry gloves.  But hey, I get it, items can be seasonal.  It is NOT ok to be dismissive, say "hmmm, I'm not sure", and go back to folding.  Lets ask someone.  Lets take me to where they might be if they were there.  Lazy isn't very attractive.

Adults that do non-stop texting are way more annoying than kids.  I expect it from the kids.  But really?  You can't walk a mall without sending 12 texts?  Pretty sad.  Now, I try to run into you when you bear down on me head in your phone, in your 400 dollar yoga pants, and 200 dollar running shoes that have never seen anything but the floormats of your BMW.  Ok...that went too far.

Adult women should show young girls how to dress.  Well actually, they are.

To the group of 6 boys popping off to people as they walked past.  Shut up.  I told you to shut up then and none of you did anything and I'm saying it again.  Shut up.  I'm sick of "tough guys" when they are surrounded by their friends.  And making fun of how an older woman walks?   Shut up.

To the guy at Macy's that walked the flippin store with me, found the gloves, and gave me a discount, ...thanks.

To the women of the makeup department.  You don't need to wear all the makeup all the time.

Banana Republic.  Great gloves.  $92.00?????  Shut up.

To the woman at J Crew,  "Hello....."

And now, to the gloves I bought...gorgeous, comfortable, leather with a fleecy inside.  Except that the inner liners of fingers 1 and 2 cut off to allow for texting better.  More control.  Shut up.  My fingers can't stop playing with the inside cut off edges.  So,  I have to take them back tomorrow.  Woo hoo.  More Mall.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Insert Manifest Here:

Let this be my manifesto.  After 2 days of tossing and turning in my sleep...literally....I have decided to be the teacher I know I must be, not the teacher others might want me to be.  I'll define my manifesto shortly, but first a justification of why I think I should be bold enough to go my own way. 

I am comfortable making the decision to go a bit outside the norm because I firmly and absolutely and completely believe that no one in America has more of an understanding of teaching mathematics in today's high schools than I do.  It is cocky to say, but my unique journey has given me bragging rights.  

While most of my colleagues have taught at one or two schools, I have taught mathematics in 5 high schools across America.  I have taught at high performing schools, low performing schools, and schools in the middle.  I've taught every ethnicity in every setting.  I have worked with hundreds of other teachers and dozens of administrators.  I have learned from great teachers what to do, and I have learned from bad teachers what not to do.  I have had unbelievable discussions with amazing minds about what REALLY works in the classroom.  Not on paper.  In the classroom.

In my egotistical, narcissistic, I love Jake, way, I believe that I know more about what is needed in today's mathematics classroom than anyone else in America.  Go me!

Insert Manifesto Here:

We keep talking and talking and talking and talking about improving mathematics education but we have forgotten one of the reasons we are here.  We are here, in part, to foster a love of mathematics.  We are doing exactly the opposite.  We are beating any love of mathematics out of our students.  I read a survey years ago that I've never forgotten.  It claimed that if you ask any 3rd grader their favorite subject, over 70% answer math.  If you ask any 10th grader their LEAST favorite subject, over 70% answer math.  Somewhere along the way we turn inquisitive minds in such a way that instead of enjoying learning new things, kids walk into math class knowing they will dislike every minute and struggle all along the way. 

It starts with the crappy teaching of math in elementary schools.  Survey after survey  indicates that elementary teachers are so insecure about their own understanding of mathematics that they spend less time on math than other subjects.  LESS time on math.  By the time the kids get to me, many are feeling like they don't have enough tools to be successful.  They don't.  We are doing big damage in the elementary classroom.   Better math teachers in the early grades are the fix.  I believe the beginning of the way to reform mathematics education in our schools is to return all of our elementary school teachers to the classroom as students of Number Theory, Algebra and Geometry.  Not to punish them.  To empower them.  I want them to become more confident in their knowledge of mathematics and with that confidence will exude confidence into their students.  I believe that. 

We need to find a way to bring back that love of mathematics that we all had when we first learned to add and subtract with M&M's.

I like what I do.  I wonder if my colleagues like it too.  In truth, I think I love it.  I love standing in front of America, being on stage, and delivering information.  (and yeah yeah yeah, I still stand and deliver.  The largest educational study ever done indicates that Direct Instruction is the ONLY method of delivery with verifiable positive results.)  My advising Master teacher was a nut and her kids learned in a great environment.  That's my goal.   I want my students to leave my math class not dreading their next math class.  I want to put a small crack in their negative defenses.  I want to start rebuilding

From this day forward I will try to create a generation of students who can use mathematics to solve problems.  I'll treat my class as much more of a history class than a math class.  We need to be taking our students on a magical and mysterious tour of the the real and imaginary world of mathematics.  Instead with throw formulas and meaningless "problems". and worksheets.

We need to be laughing as we journey through the rigorous techniques developed by men who had nothing better to do than find a new method to do what few would care to do.  We need to be exploring.  Instead, we are pounding.  Daily, we stand and pound a new concept, technique, method, formula, theorem at them... I am beginning to hate how we teach mathematics.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I fight demons.

I have spent a lifetime acting like I'm "well-adjusted", but I'm not.  On the inside, I feel a mess.

I feel like I have disappointed everyone in my life.  I feel like I'm a disappointment to my parents and to my brother and sister.  I am neither the son nor brother they probably deserve.  What they may not know, is that this demon, this belief I'm a disappointment to them, keeps me from spending more time with them.  When I see them, I see them seeing me.  Most of the time I can't bear it.  I feel like such a failure.

In my brain, I know I'm probably wrong.  My parents and siblings have told me NUMEROUS times how much they love me, need me, respect me and are proud of me.   I don't know why I see what I see. I don't know why I feel so small.

But I do.

Most days I feel like a failure as a teacher.  I have good moments; a funny line or an understandable explanation, but most days I feel like I could have done more.   Way more.  I think I try to compensate for my demon by tutoring some kids outside of school.  It isn't enough.  I just feel like a fraud or an impostor doing what a "real" teacher should be doing.

I've won numerous awards for my teaching.  3 times Teacher of the Year, 3 times voted by students to read names at graduation, 2 times as an NHS Honored Educator.... It isn't enough.  It isn't even close to enough.   I feel I'm laughed at behind my back.  A fool, a laughingstock, a mockery.

My demons are ruining me one day at a time.  I've cultivated a life of solitude outside of my work where I don't have to see myself through someone else's eyes.  I've pushed away everyone who ever loved me.  I'm alone and most days, I'm scared.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The End

Oh dear lord they did it.  The brilliant minds who have brought us the Common Core Standards have found a way to ruin math. 

Math was my salvation when I would get my 5 paragraph essays handed back to me with enough red ink on them that I thought they might have been stabbed.  Math was the place I could go and get the right answer.   It wasn't up for debate whether my topic sentence was on point, my thesis statement correctly placed or if my participles were left dangling.  You can't mark me wrong when I'm right.

Math was the place I knew.  Black and white.  Right or wrong.  I may not do it your way, but I do it correctly.  And, I'm not alone.  I have seen hundreds of students with similar abilities to me; strong foundation, excellent spacial perceptive ability, the ability to compartmentalize, the ability to do numerous computations at once without picking up a pencil, etc.

And what do we do when we see a special talent?  We make sure to try and change that person into who we think they should be.  "You have to show all your work." 

Now, the Common Core architects have decided math students must write what they do.  Math students must explain their logic.

I could never have done that.  Check that....I could have.  I wouldn't have wanted to though.  Math wouldn't have been as safe a haven for me had I been forced to write.  This might be the correct road for many students.  Not for all though.  When will we realize we are all differently talented?