Last Updated: 09/25/2013*

Math Hero Profile - Scott Keltner

I believe one of the most critical methods I use in my teaching is that students are able to see that I enjoy my job. And I am passionate about showing them how the topics I teach will relate to their lives. Not surprisingly, the number of times I hear, “When am I ever going to use this?” is kept at a minimum as a result of this teaching tactic.

The idea of exponential growth is an important one for students to comprehend, but can easily get cumbersome and confusing if given an example in class like this: If John deposits $300 in a savings account for 5 years, at an interest rate of 3.5%, compounded monthly, what will his final balance be? …  So, I found a picture of a Sierpinski triangle (a very visual, artistic example of exponential growth as well as fractals which are not often emphasized or introduced in many math classes) someone had made by arranging pennies on the floor of their school’s cafeteria.  I showed the picture to my class and asked what questions they had about it, not realizing where their curiosity might lead the discussion. Eventually, our school collected enough pennies to make the same design, only NINE times larger, totaling nearly $600 in pennies and having to take place in the school parking lot to find a space big enough to hold it. Later that school year, students were on a school trip when one of them accidentally knocked over a penny cup at a convenience store. Not only did they pick up the pennies, they arranged them on the counter in the shape of a Sierpinski triangle, leaving no question in my mind about whether or not that lesson stuck with them.

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