Teacher Appreciation Week Notes

Last week, Teacher Appreciation Week, several teachers enlisted their classes to write and to distribute thank you notes from students to teachers.  I received several, some of which I share below.  These all made me smile.

  • (Just because I was forced to write this doesn’t mean it’s not specialThank you for pushing me to continue the class. It has helped me so much, and I appreciate that you believed in me.  You are a great teacher, and you rock the sock and sandals harder than anyone I know.  Keep doing you.
  • I just wanted to thank you for helping me with my math homework.  It helped when you helped me one-on-one.  You taught me so much.  I learned more than before.
  • Your sense of style is by far the best!  I love the socks and sandals.
  • I like pi.   Pie likes you, there 4, I like you.
  • Thanks for being like my dad. <3
  • Thank you so much for teaching me that learning requires persistence and failure.  I appreciate your strength and courage to challenge us.
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Great Quotations about Mathematics, Knowledge, and Learning

The following quotes were taken from the website of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).  Each of them resonated with me for one reason or another.

Which is your favorite?


Great Quotations about Mathematics, Knowledge, and Learning

It is a great nuisance that knowledge can only be acquired through hard work. W. Somerset Maugham

The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment….We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, this greatest science [often] eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.  Alfred North Whitehead (1861 – 1947) An Introduction to Mathematics

One of the big misapprehensions about mathematics that we perpetrate in our classrooms is that the teacher always seems to know the answer to any problem that is discussed. This gives students the idea that there is a book somewhere with all the right answers to all of the interesting questions, and that teachers know those answers. And if one could get hold of the book, one would have everything settled. That’s so unlike the true nature of mathematics. Leon Henkin from  L.A. Steen and D.J. Albers (eds.), Teaching Teachers, Teaching Students, Boston: Birkhauser, 1981, p. 89.

Mathematics was born and nurtured in a cultural environment. Without the perspective which the cultural background affords, a proper appreciation of the content and state of present-day mathematics is hardly possible. R. L. Wilder in The American Mathematical Monthly, March 1994.

Perhaps I could best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of entering a dark mansion. You go into the first room and it’s dark, completely dark. You stumble around, bumping into furniture. Gradually, you learn where each piece of furniture is, and, finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch and turn it on. Suddenly, it’s all illuminated and you know exactly where you were. Then you enter the next dark room….
Andrew Wiles from the PBS Nova program: The Proof

Our minds are finite, and yet even in those circumstances of finitude, we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of human life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude. Alfred North Whitehead

I advise my students to listen carefully the moment they decide to take no more mathematics courses. They might be able to hear the sound of closing doors. James Caballero. Everybody a mathematician?, CAIP Quarterly 2 (Fall, 1989).

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully, but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretched out his arms for others. Carl Friedrich Gauss

It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) in H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, 1988.

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Thankful for Financial Aid

Nearing the end of my fourth year teaching full-time, I was recently reminded of how thankful I am for a generous, forgivable loan I received while attending the Stanford Teacher Education Program, also known as STEP.

As most people in the world are aware, Stanford is not a low-cost university.  My one year attending STEP, including all expenses such as tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and transportation approached $75,000 in cost.

Without financial aid, I could not have considered Stanford.  The centerpiece of my financial aid package was the Dorothy Durfee Avery Loan Forgiveness program.  It offers teacher candidates $20,000 towards their education at Stanford.  I could not have attended STEP without it.  I believe this applies to many of those who attend STEP.

A recent article, Gift to Stanford Teacher Education Program reduces its graduates from debt, mentioned that over 500 STEP graduates benefited from the Avery loan over the past nine years.  I am honored to count myself among those who received the loan.

As someone who transitioned from industry, my financial need was not as great as younger students, yet unlike most of them, I have a spouse and kids, a mortgage, and other expenses.  Hence, my commitment to teaching placed me on a significantly lower income profile than most of my neighbors with a comparable cost profile.  Needless to say, finances became tight very quickly.

Fortunately, with the Avery loan, and other financial aid used to cover the cost of my education, nearly ninety percent of the principle of the loan amounts is forgivable over a five-year period assuming specific conditions are met.  The compounding interest, at 6.9 percent, amounts to my true out of pocket expenses, in addition to the significantly reduced income.  Nonetheless, I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend STEP, and now to teach filled with the principles I learned in the program.

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