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For Math Teachers by Math Teachers

Archive for July, 2014

Thoughts from Rice University Pre-service Teachers

July 16th, 2014 by Alice Fisher

By Kathryn Kubena and Daniel Marin

We are both Rice undergraduates studying Statistics and earning Secondary Mathematics Teacher Certification. Every summer RUSMP hires 4-5 Rice undergraduates passionate about math and education as research and office assistants, so naturally we found them. As preservice teachers, we’ve had the privilege to assist RUSMP in their Summer Campus Program and witness effective and innovative teaching from the master teachers.

The field of mathematics is broad and offers a wide range of career and research opportunities, some being more technical and independent than others. Teaching mathematics provides an avenue for mathematicians to apply a different kind of skill set. In a modern public high school classroom, teachers may interact with about 6 periods of 35+ students, presenting, facilitating, and adapting to the circumstances of the day. A teacher is on his feet, addressing various students and creating individualized explanations to whatever problem they run into. These unique solutions and explanations are one component of student-centered environments, where students build concepts and connections. The daily variety and frequent meaningful social contact, attract both of us to become math educators. Like most young adults, we want to have a grand effect on the lives of others, and teaching allows your positive influence to domino from you to your students to their families to their communities.

While we may seem overconfident (and we probably are), our expectations for success in the classroom are grounded in the knowledge and impeccable training from the Rice Teacher Education program. The program, now celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, trains undergraduate Rice students to attain a 7th-12th teacher certification after learning from several master teachers and serving as a student teacher for their entire senior year. Like ours, the program’s philosophy emphasizes student-centered learning, from activities to discussions. That kind of instruction allows students to build up the concepts for themselves, giving us as teachers the opportunity to witness the “Eureka!” or “Aha!” moments.

Like Cathy Seeley, colloquium speaker at RUSMP’s Summer Campus Program, said in her new book Smarter Than We Think, “increasing student motivation lies… in [students] tackling challenging tasks where they can grapple with important mathematics.”

To us, that sounds exciting! We’re preservice teachers, having yet to calm a group of 35 sixteen year olds, accommodate for 5 different learners at the same time, create a socially relevant problem for tomorrow’s lesson, or even have an activity that just glides over every student’s head, so we may be misunderstanding our anxiety as excitement. But we’re confident that working in a dynamic environment and seeing students grow from our interactions will be worth it.

About the authors:

Kathryn Kubena is a rising junior of Brown College majoring in Psychology and Statistics, earning a mathematics Teacher certification, and Master of Arts in Teaching from Rice University. She is from Houston, Texas.


Daniel Marin is a rising senior of Hanszen College, majoring in Statistics and earning a  mathematics Teacher Certification in Rice University. He is from the Mission,TX in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, TX.