Near the front of an auditorium at Chattanooga State Technical Community College on Wednesday, a woman raised her arms and swayed back and forth to music flowing from a piano.
Within moments, most of the audience had picked up on the catchy tune and joined in, some clapping to the beat.
The roughly 250 people there were Hamilton County teachers — and they were learning how to teach math.
They clapped, swayed, laughed and sang at an event that was equal parts math teaching conference and piano concert. Coming from all grade levels, they took personal time Wednesday and today to listen to David McKillop, a consultant from Making Math Matter, Inc., give pointers on more effectively teaching math concepts.
Math relates to everyday life, Mr. McKillop said, and students should be encouraged to find connections on their own.
“Expect students to think, and for God’s sake, let them struggle,” he said.
Mr. McKillop’s first musical number Wednesday was a song he wrote about teaching students to think for themselves.
“Math standards for everyone, they’re the greatest give we’ll give,” he sang, pounding away on a piano next to his podium.
Inviting elementary, middle and high school teachers to the conference gave them a chance to see what their students have learned in the past or will be required to learn in the future, said Christy Evans, Hamilton County Schools’ director of secondary math and science.
“It gives them a different perspective,” she said.
Sarah Lail, who just finished her first year teaching sixth-grade math and science at Sale Creek Middle-High School, said she enjoyed the chance to fine-tune her teaching skills.
“This is just a great way to learn more strategies for our kids to be successful,” she said.
Fellow Sale Creek teacher Beverly Smith said using music to get teachers excited about teaching math was a good example of what instructors themselves strive to do in the classroom.
“Now we do more ‘edutainment,’ ” she said. “We’re doing more than having our students sitting in their seats.”
The math conference, presented by the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Public Education Foundation with funding from the Carnegie Corporation, continues today. There also is a similar institute on reading, held at Howard School of Academics and Technology.
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...