Monday, July 15, 2013

Coaching math

My take on math is that we typically think we are either GOOD or BAD at it.  Somewhere along the line, a teacher (usually starting in 3rd grade) told us that we were GOOD at math if we could finish that speed multiplication chart without errors.  The not-GOOD ones then assumed that they were BAD at it when they were put in a lower math group than the GOOD ones. 

I think that doing well on a speed multiplication chart tells you exactly two things: that you can write quickly and that you can memorize well.  When did these two qualities get to tell you that you were GOOD or BAD at anything?

When you listen to the radio, and jump around to find music that you like, are you thinking you are not good at music?  Of course not.  You have different preferences and appreciations.  You are unique.  Classical, jazz, progressive rock, alternative, rap, you get to enjoy the music and being you as you are driving along.

If we followed the math model of assessment, if and only if you could change radio stations very fast and memorize where all the stations were you would be GOOD at enjoying music.  Baloney.  

Everyone has an innate ability to appreciate math and use it for some good purpose.  You may have had that thought drummed out of you when you were young, but please give yourself another chance.  It is your TEACHER'S job to give you enough ways of learning and to present enough of the beauty of math that you gain flexible skills with using it.

It's nervous and exciting to be starting something new.  After years of helping homeschool students learn high school math and science in Charlottesville, Virginia, my family of six has moved to Tampa, Florida.  I've had a chance to think about what to do next and how to keep a toe in the water with math education.  This school year, I'll be offering an online course in Calculus that I hope has a different approach.

I'll be "coaching" calculus.  My goal is that the students who take this class will remember what they learned when the course is done!  They will be able to think about how calculus can help solve problems and be prepared if their future coursework, lives or careers calls for familiarity with the subject.

I am not a licensed teacher.  I am a engineer by education and an educator by way of helping homeschoolers learn high school math and science for the last eight years in a cooperative.

If you are interested in this type of a learning environment, please contact me!  I'm limiting enrollment for this year to ten students.  We'll meet online for three hours a week, there will be a syllabus and homework, quizzes and tests - but all geared toward understanding instead of just surviving.  Students will be greatly encouraged to take the AP Calc exam in May 2014 so that they can get all the college credit they can, saving their families the cost of a college course at any institution that accepts AP credit (many do).

Tuition is $100 per month.  Course runs from late August to late April for a total of 8 months.   Quizzes and tests are submitted digitally to Mrs. Saville and can be assessed a grade if requested.  References are available.

Course textbook:

2006 Calculus of A Single Variable Eighth Edition AP Edition (H) by Ron Larson, Robert P. Hostetler, & Bruce H. Edwards ISBN-13: 9780618503049

My short bio:

Mary Saville graduated from the University of Virginia in 1997 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, with honors.  Since then she worked as an engineer and a project manager for several years in private industry before raising four children.  In 2005 Mary began teaching high school math and science at a home education cooperative in Charlottesville, Virginia.  She has taught Geometry, PreCalculus, Calculus, and Physics and designed a multi-year STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) course for home schoolers.

In the school year 2012-13, her STEM class was awarded the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Grant and spent the year prototyping an invention.  The students’ work was displayed with the other winning high school teams at EurekaFest in Cambridge, MA at MIT this past June 2013.

Mary, her husband, and her children Kara, Mark, Jack and Caleb recently moved from Virginia to Tampa, Florida.

Mary can be reached at 434-996-7633 or

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