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Heather McIntosh has a master’s degree in mathematics, and has just completed a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC Okanagan - photo by Bud Mortenson
Heather McIntosh has a master’s degree in mathematics, and has just completed a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC Okanagan - photo by Bud Mortenson

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 5 | May 1, 2008

Teaching the Beauty of Math

By Bud Mortenson

Heather McIntosh loves math and she hopes to teach her students to love it, too. They can count on it.

Already prepared with a master’s degree in mathematics from Newfoundland’s Memorial University, on June 6 McIntosh will graduate with a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC Okanagan.

“As a masters student I was given the opportunity to teach various mathematics labs and taught two undergraduate university courses,” says McIntosh. “Teaching these classes was the best part of my day. However, I was very surprised to see all of the negative attitudes students had towards math and about their ability to do math. The main reason I am in teacher education is because I want to help students discover the beauty of mathematics, problem solving and, generally, the joy of learning.”

While studying education in the Secondary Teacher Education Program, McIntosh has also applied her math and teaching talents to UBC Okanagan’s Math Resource Centre -- not in a math lab on campus, but as an online math tutor.

She’s helping other students improve their math skills virtually, via the phone and online messaging, using a drawing tablet and laptop computer from her home in Penticton, 60 kilometres south of UBC Okanagan’s campus in Kelowna. It’s a fairly new tool in the quest to provide math assistance, and one McIntosh strongly believes can make a difference in reducing the anxiety that math -- and seeking math help -- can create.

“I personally think that online tutoring is very neat,” she says. “It has the potential to reach students who normally are too embarrassed to go to the tutor centre.”

The Secondary Teacher Education Program culminates with a guided reflective inquiry project (GRIP). McIntosh’s project -- a 25-page paper she will present in June -- explores negative attitudes towards mathematics and math anxiety.

“Part of my GRIP talks about math outreach projects I have been involved in,” she says. “I recently created and helped organize a math sports day event at Columbia Elementary School in Penticton. We set up four math-related games and stations in the gym, and the students rotated through them like a sports day.

“The teachers helped run the stations, and the goal is to show students that mathematics can be fun, exciting, and very applicable to real life. Ideally, it can also give elementary teachers new ideas to make mathematics more fun in their own classrooms.” 

Teaching runs in the McIntosh family, and she credits that and the teachers she has had along the way for encouraging her to pursue the teaching profession.

“My father was a principal and a strong advocate for education, and many of my extended family are also teachers,” she says. “Like many other pre-service teachers, I have had some very inspiring teachers. I have really enjoyed the teacher education program and I’ve learned a lot in my practicum. I have been very lucky to get two great sponsor teachers, who both gave me lots of feedback and advice.

“I have always known that I wanted to teach and I am having fun discovering the different levels,” she says. “I originally thought I wanted to teach upper-level classes and college level, but in my practicum I have had the opportunity to teach three Grade 9 classes and I have really enjoyed teaching those classes. Eventually I would love to be a math coordinator, and I am also looking forward to having my own classroom.”

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“Reflection, reflection, reflection. My courses taught me how important it is to reflect on your experiences. In math something as simple as the order of your examples makes a huge difference. Reflection is a great tool to make good lessons even better.”


Last reviewed 30-Apr-2008

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