Menu Dropdown

Helping kids conquer numbers

Math Heroes awards recognize 27 teachers for creative classroom techniques

James Moonan of Pierce Middle School in Milton, Massachusetts, is among 27 teachers being recognized as Raytheon's 2014 Math Heroes. (Photo Credit: Milken Family Foundation)

There is a large concrete slab outside the Cockrill Middle School in McKinney, Texas, and nobody seems to have any use for it. Nobody, that is, except for math teacher Glynn Smith.

He looks at that drab, rectangular mass and he sees something exciting. He sees grid lines and dots, an X axis and a Y axis. And he sees his students huddling over it, chatting and collaborating and finally figuring out for themselves how to plot right triangles and solve linear equations.

“My goal is to get my kids comfortable enough, kids who have sometimes had years of failure in a math classroom, to get them in a place where they’re comfortable expressing themselves,” Smith said. “Just being able to get out there and have good conversations is what good learning is all about.”

Smith’s plans for a giant, interactive graph outside the school earned him a place among 27 teachers across the country who Raytheon is honoring as “Math Heroes” for their creativity and dedication in the classroom. Grant recipients receive $2,500 each – and their schools receive a matching amount – to pay for new technology and other resources.

Math Heroes View Gallery

This year’s grant winners plan to buy tablet computers, software and graphing calculators. They’re also hoping to launch math and robotics clubs, sponsor math-themed parent nights and enroll students in regional and national competitions.

Many of this year’s Math Heroes already are doing ambitious work, using the world as their teaching tool. Duc Dang of Louis Lake Intermediate School in Garden Grove, Calif., for example, brings in oil paintings to teach the elements of geometry.

“One painting I used had a bike in the sand at the beach. Students noted the circumference of the bike tires and the symmetry of the palm trees,” Dang wrote in his grant application. “Applying mathematics to real-world visuals has caused my classroom climate to be one of excitement and total engagement.”

Tara Pugh of Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Oklahoma, teaches math through personal finance: Her students choose careers, calculate their income and expenses and even have to figure out how to pay for emergency car repairs.

“This is a great activity for the students to gain an understanding of what life is like when you are managing your own bank account by balancing a checkbook, and also gives them an awareness of the everyday life expenses,” she wrote.

Math Hero Gayle Warmbrodt of the Long Middle School in Dallas plans to use her award to help build a math and technology lab.

“In the technology-driven lab, students are at the center.  Students work quickly and efficiently on technological tools such as iPads and calculators and spend less time doing basic arithmetic with pencil and paper,” Warmbrodt wrote in her grant application. “With students at the center of their own learning and engaged in technology, more learning takes place while students develop life-long skills.”

Raytheon’s Math Hero Awards are offered each year as part of the company’s commitment to education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Published: 09/18/2014

Last Updated: 04/26/2016

Back to Top