Science - Page 41

I

have been a university math professor for over twenty-five years , and I love it . I get to work with students from all across the spectrum of mathematical comfort . I teach students who love math and take lots of advanced classes , and I teach students who have not had good experiences at all and , quite honestly , fear the subject . Each student is different , of course , and I am so glad for opportunities to work with them all .
As different as student experiences can be , there is one thing that unites them all – Monday mornings are hard ! In Monday morning classes , there is a palpable sense of exhaustion ( dread , even ) regarding the upcoming week of assignments and exams . There is a common sense of regret that the prior weekend was not as productive as had been originally planned ( we teachers feel this too !). This makes Monday classes particularly challenging . Several years ago , I decided to start a Monday morning class with a magic trick – one that was math related . This perked up the group a bit , and a student suggested that I should do something similar every Monday . With that , “ Magic Mondays ” were born .
Since that day , I have started every Monday morning class ( from introductory to advanced ) with a magic effect that is related in some way to math . Sometimes the math part is clear ( effects of the form “ Pick a number , now multiply it by 5 , now add 3 , etc .”). Other times , though , the mathematical part is in the working and is less obvious .
What started as a way to ease students into Monday mornings has become a staple of my teaching career . Students who are taking their first class with me will ask me about it when the semester starts . Clearly , they have heard about Magic Mondays from others , and that lets me know that the lessons ( or at least the experiences ) are making it out the classroom door .
I have discovered over the years that the impact of magic in a math classroom is more than just a fun extracurricular diversion . This magic is also making better math students , and this article describes a few ways in which this is the case . I want to be clear that when I say “ better ” math students , I ’ m not just talking about students getting better grades . Good grades are nice , of course , but I ’ m referring to improvements that , to me , are much more meaningful . I have organized my comments based on six Cs : comfort , coolness , concepts , curiosity , creativity , and communication .

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