Last week I was so enthusiastic about the computer program we are using to teach basic math at Pima. Students attentive, with their supplies, not texting, not chatting with friends, not throwing paper wads or spitballs.

I thought to write to Bill Gates, asking him to supply computers and Pearson’s *Foundational Studies in Mathematics* to Cholla High School so that incoming freshmen who flunked the prerequisite math test (which, of course, the school would institute) would take this course to make up their deficiencies as they segue into algebra. Hence no student would flunk math.

Silly me. There are few students without supplies – the $162 workbook! Unfortunately, they cannot take the post-tests without doing the problems in the workbook, or copying the workbook pages (different than the homework problems they do online) from the computer and doing them. As there is no pencil sharpener in the classroom, I gave one student my stub of a pencil.

And there are one or two students texting. Technically, the class Syllabus says “…telephones, pagers, and other electronic devices that distract students are not allowed in classrooms”, but we treat the students as the adults they are and let them be (except during a test when using a cell phone will result in a zero.) Also, now that the students are getting to know each other, there is talking and flirting going on, albeit *sotto voce*, also something we ignore, as they are adults. On the other hand, no paper wads or spitballs!

Some students are going way too slowly. True, students go at their own pace, but we expect them to do the homework at home (that’s why it’s called **home**work!) A student must complete at least nine modules (out of the total 35) to pass this semester, so we would like them to complete almost module a week. Kind of difficult for the one deaf young man who didn’t know the concepts of multiplication and division. Luckily he seems to be pretty bright. I’ve been helping him quite a bit without the need for the signer, pointing to the screen, writing comments down. The signer told me (very heatedly) that there are no graduation requirements at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind just down the road. Graduates have been taught job skills, but that doesn’t include multiplication?

However, I do enjoy doing this teaching, whether it’s helping with multiplication or long division or encouraging students to get out of their *I can’t do math, I can’t take tests, I’ve always been too anxious* mindsets. The students, whether just out of high school or almost my age, are always very grateful for my help.

The main problem is yet to be seen, as attendance has dropped off. Will these students just drop the class? I can now see high school students not doing homework either, consequently not finishing many modules, so it’s not the panacea I though it would be.

**Cell phones **

I’ve noted that students at the college are texting on their cell phones, or using apps, rather than talking. Today a young woman took a photo of the lab hours, written on the white board, with her cell, rather than copying them. They’ve become paperless; paper copies of the course’s syllabus needn’t be handed out as it is available online. No wonder that they take umbrage at the idea that they have to write (with a pencil!) in their workbooks, in addition to doing all of the homework assignments online.

**Tension on the Tarmac **

A week ago Wednesday President Obama visited our fair state. Our governor was not exactly cordial. I loved Maureen Dowd’s commentary in last Sunday’s *New York Times*. (Yes, I am still reading last Sunday’s edition. It takes me a week to get through it.) This is just part of the column:

On Wednesday, Obama had [a] bristly tarmac moment with Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, who met Air Force One when the president landed in Phoenix.

The toxic dominatrix of illegal immigration, the woman who turned every Latino in her state into a suspect, was flustered and gesticulating at the president as he put his hand on her arm to chill her out. Brewer complained afterward that she had felt “unnerved” and “a little bit threatened” by Obama and that he had walked away while she was in midsentence.Brewer told Monica Crowley, subbing for Sean Hannity on Fox News, that she had given the president a letter inviting him to join her at the border to discuss enforcement. She said he shot back that her account of a 2010 Oval Office meeting on the topic, published in her book, “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border,” was distorted.

“He was patronizing,” Brewer wrote about the president in her book, adding: “He’s treating me like the cop he had over for a beer after he bad-mouthed the Cambridge police.” (The president’s recent performances are boosting sales of Brewer’s book and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”)

With typical Fox balance, Crowley told Governor Brewer that she admired her for “getting in the president’s grill,” adding, “You go, girl.”The president can be thin-skinned, but

the governor can be fat-headed. The Constitution is more threatened by Brewer’s racial profiling than the governor was by the president’s fact-checking. Brewer’s grasp of facts is tenuous, after all: she told The Arizona Republic in 2010 that her father died fighting the Nazis in Germany, when he died a decade after the end of the war, which he spent working at an ammunition factory in Nevada.

Tags: cell phones, Pearson's Foundational Studies in Mathematics, President Obama with Governor Jan Brewer

February 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

Excellent Lynne!

February 6, 2012 at 6:50 am |

Your math teaching experiences remind me of my learning experience in High School at Monte Vista in Danville, CA. I was fortunate enought to take Algebra from Polly Nippa who worked for Dr. Terri Braithwaite. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/braithwaite_therese.harce.html They did not beileve in the Monkey-see-monkey do method of teaching math. They lined the walls w/ chalk boards. The students stood at the boards and worked the problems for the teachers. The teachers could SEE our understanding of the subject and provide immediate feedback. I came to love math through their introduction to confidence in my ablility!

February 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

Wow. Clicked on the link. Scary story. You had a great math experience. Bet the classes were small. (Couldn’t imagine doing board work w/ 36 students!)