ASH Voices: Nathaniel, High School Math teacher
High School Math teacher Nathaniel talked to us about the art of math. With a background in both the arts and mathematics, he shares a unique perspective of math; one that may not be so visible at first glance, but that is very much there.
How did you become a math teacher?
I started in university as a math student, but discovered sculpture in my third year, and took an almost 20-year left turn. During that time, I worked as an art fabricator, a stage carpenter, and an instructor of art at the university level. In 2009, I returned to my first love, and got my certification to teach math at the middle and high school level. I taught for several years at public and private schools in the United States and then moved to Cyprus, where I taught for 4 years, and then Spain where I taught 5 years .
What do you see in common between art and math?
Mathematics and art are both creative endeavors, and I have been lucky enough to have had opportunities to experience creativity in both subjects. But I recognize that many students experience only small technical parts of math and do not get these opportunities.
Why do the art classroom or the physical education classroom feel so different from the math classroom? Young artists believe that their voice is unique and important, and strive to build the skills to express this voice. Young athletes believe in the power of “not yet”, and are confident that practice will lead to improvement.
I believe that young mathematicians deserve opportunities to experience these ideas as well, and fostering these opportunities has been a very important part of my practice as a math teacher. Mathematics is a precise and beautiful language that we can use to express ideas and to communicate. This social and human connection is at the heart of why I care about math, and is very similar to why I love the arts.
How does your subject help students grow - academically and personally?
In addition to the unique ability for mathematics to help explain and make sense of the world around us, math gives us a framework from which to practice problem-solving. It also gives us a place to intellectually stretch ourselves beyond where we thought we could go.
While most of us will never use the quadratic formula in our adult lives, every one of us will experience important and novel problems that we need to solve on a daily basis. So some students will unlock the secrets of astrophysics using math, but for most, the confidence that we build in math class can carry through to many other areas that we care about.
How have you grown professionally and personally at ASH?
What have your students taught you? Although I have only been here a short time, I have been impressed with how our community demonstrates care for one another. We are all focused on academic performance and achievement, but even more than that, the ASH community see each other as human beings. Even in moments of stress - even just after a math test - my students have been warm, caring and welcoming, which is something I truly value and want to be a part of.