Fellow Profile: Jennifer Hendryx
- G-TEAMS Cohort: 2011-12
- Graduate Program: Optical Sciences
- Teacher Partner: Mathias Reynolds
- School: Mountain View High School
- Grade level: 9-12
- Topics: Algebra I (SpEd), Algebra II, College Ready Math, and Academic Decathlon Physics
"Math is more than just a means of quantifying the world around us: it is a way of thought. The logic and reasoning skills used in mathematics can be applied to anything from theology to astrophysics. It is our job as scientists, mathematicians, and educators to communicate this way of thinking to those around us, especially the next generation."
Jennifer Hendryx is a graduate student in the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. Her research interests lie in the area of biomedical imaging and spectroscopy, specifically retinal oximetry--a promising method of measuring oxygen saturation of the blood by noninvasive means. She is in her third year of the program, receiving her master's degree in December of 2011.
Jennifer is working at Mountain View High School with Matt Reynolds teaching Algebra II, College Ready Math, and Special Ed. Algebra I. One of the primary goals of their partnership is to help students understand algebra beyond the equations. For example, the Algebra II students were required to determine properties of the flight, such as initial velocity and maximum height by manipulating the given (quadratic) gravity equation using data they collected and skills they learned throughout the chapter. They were required to think critically about their results, and they used their results to solve for cases that were not measured—like bouncing a ball off of a cliff. Jennifer is working to bring her understanding of light and optics to the classroom as well. She was able to incorporate holograms into the lesson about complex numbers, and the lens equation is her favorite example of a rational function. On a daily basis, Jennifer and Matt tag-team working through examples so students see a few ways of approaching problems.
For the Academic Decathlon lessons, Jennifer incorporates as many tangible examples of the physics principles as she can. Whether she is jumping off of chairs, playing with yo-yos, or making rainbows, she tries to bring the physics to life.
I am learning the challenges of teaching students to think. They seem to be good at “monkey see, monkey do,” but they seem to resist thinking critically about the math. Matt has provided good insight as to how the students operate and how to guide and respond to them within the time constraints of a class period. Many students do not yet understand that they bear the burden of learning, and motivating them is an uphill battle.
I am also learning to broaden my view of math. As a mathematical scientist, I use math as a tool. Sometimes that outlook is useful—like when students question the point of studying imaginary numbers. But in cases like factoring, completing the square, and the quadratic formula, I am learning the importance of building and making connections between mathematical concepts rather than just teaching algorithm after algorithm. And that is definitely a challenge for me. I, like many others, was working under the assumption that “application” implied word problems, data, and/or experiments. It took a bit for me to understand that applications in a math classroom may look more like connecting the conceptual dots. Relating division by rational roots to division of complex numbers, completing the square by physically determining how much of a square is missing, and defining asymptotes in terms of limits (even though formal limits are beyond the scope of the class) are just a few examples.