Math Celebrity April 2018

positivity APRIL 2018

When I began studying math and computer technology, I made another amazing discovery: The same principles I’d learned from my Spanish teacher applied to math and binary code. It was one of those “aha!” moments. If I knew the language of math, the meaning behind each number and symbol, I could understand it and communicate it to others. That discovery has been paramount in the development of Our online tutor is an international site, and problems are submitted from all over the world. We see questions from over 30 countries. Numbers are universal, but there are many different ways of asking the same question. If someone asks for an addition problem, they may ask for it three or four different ways. We might get a problem in the form of “45 + 46,” while another person will ask, “What’s the sum of 45 and 46?” and yet another might ask, “What is 45 added to 46?” For our online math tutor to give the answer, I had to get it to understand that those different equations all have the same root. There’s translation involved in the way someone asks for a problem on our site. Thanks to my Spanish teacher, I can understand those connections and translate them. May 8 is Teacher Appreciation Day, a great time to show your appreciation for the incredible educators in your life and your child’s. If a teacher impacted you in school, maybe it’s a good time to reach out to them and let them know how much they influenced you. Inside the newsletter, we’re paying tribute to one of the dedicated teachers in our community. Read on to hear from Mr. Alajoki, a history teacher who discusses the wins and challenges he faces in the classroom and what he’s doing to provide better education for our children.

“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” –Galileo Galilei

Teachers play a crucial role in educating our children. An effective teacher can set a stray student on the right path or open up new doorways for a promising student. Often, you don’t understand how important your early educators were until adulthood. Then you find yourself having an “aha!” moment when you realize the knowledge your teacher imparted to you is still valuable. In middle school, I had an influential teacher who structured my way of thinking for years to come. She was my Spanish teacher in seventh and eighth grade, and she showed me the importance of learning a second language. She taught us that memorizing the words was only part of the process: If you can’t understand the language, you’re never going to communicate with anyone. It was more than a lesson in language — it was a lesson in listening. Learning a language isn’t just memorizing the vocabulary and repeating it. It’s discovering the meaning behind those words. This teacher forced us to look beyond what was right in front of us to discover where the words came from (their etymology). While it was more work to learn, when we heard a word, we knew the meaning behind it. We could see how different languages use roots to arrive at the same meaning. I took two more years of Spanish after middle school, and while I’m by no means fluent, having learned the roots of the words helps me recall the meaning when I hear the language spoken today. Our family went on a vacation to Cancun recently, and I found myself carrying on a rudimentary conversation with Spanish speakers there. Those lessons in listening stood the test of time. – Don Sevcik


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