Powell Middle School math teacher making math memorable

A Powell Middle School teacher is multiplying student success by getting creative.
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 6:54 PM EDT
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POWELL, Tenn. (WVLT) - A pandemic plus new technology can add up to trouble for math students at Powell Middle School. But one teacher is multiplying student success by getting creative.

“It’s been a lot emotionally,” said Chris Thorson, after his 7th grade honors math class.

It’s been a tough year for mostly everyone, especially for our kids in school.

So Thorson noticed some of his students were having trouble, like Emma Kennedy.

“I didn’t do a lot over quarantine and all that, so it definitely put me back,” said Kennedy, a student in Thorson’s honors math class.

Thorson is helping students like Emma fight learning loss by engaging them in new ways. “I think that’s the biggest challenge for us as teachers is just finding ways to integrate some of those key concepts that they’ve forgotten or maybe they didn’t get to go from start to finish on,” explained Thorson, “And integrate it into the things they’re already going to do this year.”

Leilani Doucet and Katelyn McAffry are finding a new love of math.

“I like math the most because it’s fun to me,” said Doucet.

McAffry said, “It’s definitely been more challenging than previous years, but it’s nothing I can’t do.”

Motivation was difficult for Emma at first, but now she’s grown. “With math I struggled actually understanding what I’m doing. If I understand it I’m good to go,” said Kennedy.

Wednesday’s lesson involved learning about the Pythagorean theorem. To make it fun, Thorson’s practice problems included students figuring out the fastest way to get from a spot on the beach to a taco truck.

And it really hit home with his students.

“He always like goes the extra mile to like explain to us how a certain thing works,” said Caleb Lanius, another student in one of his classes.

These creative ways help students like Caleb Lanius understand problem solving.

“If there’s nothing that’s real world applicable, there’s nothing that they’re able to see how this is going to be used it’s very hard for students to get engaged and stay there,” said Thorson.

He’s found engaging students in online class discussion boards with their peers and utilizing technology can help his students grasp new knowledge.

For parents and caregivers preparing for summer when learning loss can happen he recommended finding ways to add math into students every day lives.

Some ideas include:

-Talking with students about math and what they learned in their latest school year

-Helping with home projects like plumbing, gardening, roofing, etc.

-Using time and measurement at the pool

-Budgeting at the grocery store

-Working on percentages with restaurant tips and store sales

-Reaching out to last year’s and next year’s math teachers for practice materials.

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