Effective High School Math Teaching: A Recipe for Success

Why is math so hard to teach and why are there so few good math teachers? Whether you are a student, parent, or yes–even a math teacher–you know how true this question is. Effective math teaching requires more than just a good handle on the subject. A great high school math teacher must be a great salesperson; moreover, effective teaching–period–requires that the teacher be a better salesperson than the students. For if you can sell the students your bag of goods successfully every day, then your knowledge of the subject becomes a secondary attribute. Additionally, if you manifest a genuine concern for the individuals that you teach, mix this with a little humor, present the material with a commanding knowledge, and show enthusiasm for what you are selling, then the victory will be easily at hand.

Anyone who can teach a bunch of high school kids on a daily basis–let alone a subject like algebra, geometry, or integrated math–is worthy of some kudos. Teaching effectively on a daily basis is worthy of adoration. An effective salesperson must win over his clients and close the sale. A great teacher must win over his students and “close” their education. Once a teacher closes his students, disciples are made and the rest is easy. Closing one’s students requires a passion for math, a genuine concern for their person, and a willingness to take risks in one’s approach to teaching.

Days and months could be spent on all the reasons that the teaching profession is hurting: why there are so few good math and science teachers; why math test scores are sinking; why students are not achieving like their Asian brothers and sisters are; on and on and on. The purpose of this article, however, is to get right to the point: effective math teaching begins with a burning passion for the subject in question and an intimate connection to the dimension within which the “mathematical spirit” resides. Without either of these two qualities, you will not be an effective math teacher: without passion, you will never be able to repel the daily buffets of the students; and without that spiritual connection, you will never be able to tap into that higher realm, where magical discoveries are made and serendipitous insights are yours for the asking.

You want to teach math effectively? Forget remembering formulas and rote ways to solve problems. Tap into a higher consciousness. Develop a zeal for the mysteries that this subject unfolds. Let your students sense this ardor. Be a great salesperson. The rest will be simply magic

By Joe Pagano


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