Monday, June 4, 2012

Even Math Teachers Can Have Math Weaknesses

I've taught just about every math subject and topic you can imagine right up through calculus. I'm pretty good at all kinds of math problems, which is nice when you're expected to help kids make sense of them. But there's a skill—mathematical in nature—that I'm not so hot at.

Spatial estimation.

How many feet are between me and the car in front of me? Couldn't tell you.

How many gallons of water fit in my bathtub? No idea.

When it comes to teaching, this isn't really a problem. I know about measurement. I know how to take measurements. I know a few benchmarks (like a football field) and can easily estimate whether something is more or less than those.

It's a problem when I'm moving today. Do I have enough boxes? Is everything going to fit in the size of moving truck I've rented (plus the two cars coming along)?

I guess I'll find out.

After packing up my classroom this past week, though, I'm happy to say I've at least gotten better at optimizing box space. I got some books packed in an arrangement that was a thing of beauty.

Is there a minor section in your area of expertise where you don't feel so expert? Has it gotten in your way? How do you work around it?


E.B. Black said...

I'm terrible at spatial estimation, too. All those "guess how many are in the jar" games at carnivals, I epically fail at. I'll guess something like 100 and find out that the answer is something like 5,000. I'm that bad at it.

But my specialty isn't math.

I suppose it's writing. And there's always things I can improve upon in that area.

Matthew Bryant said...

Good question. Anything I do professionally for money always feels like it could use some improvement.

Even being an asshole. Every once in a while, a little conscience tries to come sprouting out and make me feel guilty.

But in teaching, there are definitely things that I could better understand. Like when in a real life situation would you use i? I mean seriously... imaginary numbers belong in my fictional works as the main protagonists, not on my lesson plans.