LET’S COOK: Pi and more
Wednesday of this week was recognized as National Pi Day. Pi Day is celebrated annually on March 14 (3.14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “?”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant – the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter – which is approximately 3.14159.
My favorite “pi,” as many of you know, is lemon meringue pie which I enjoy making and writing about; however, today’s pi adds up slightly different.
Last fall Lydia entered seventh grade at Eric Ramstad School in Minot and was introduced to a math teacher, Mr. Brian Walz. Her 7th grade advanced math class was Pre-Algebra so she wondered about all the new concepts this class would involve. We reassured her that things would go well and that her education to this point had prepared her for the challenges of this math class.
As a child, math was not my favorite class until I met my freshman math teacher, the (late) Mr. Richard Olson, who motored to Underwood the fall of 1974 in a sharp blue and white Buick, Skylark. His patience, knowledge and effect on me opened new doors for me in math. Mr. Olson had perseverance that could win out a molasses drip on a below zero North Dakota day. By no means am I a math wizard, but Mr. Olson provided me with the math skills I still use every day. He knew that I had a passion for art and creating; his wisdom connected this to math and knowing myself.
Recalling Mr. Olson has brought to mind why some people are true teachers. In my opinion to thoroughly understand a child, an engaged educator recognizes the need to go the extra mile with their student. It goes beyond mere ascertaining of a student’s intelligence and test scores.
They take the time to identify all of the significant factors which affect the learning process. This important list includes physical factors and most important the student’s specific state of readiness. It has been amazing to watch how Mr. Walz knows the readiness of his math students and then to push and challenge them in order for them to grow. He had the benefit of coming from a home where his parents, Dwayne and Karen Walz, were long time educators in Minot.
It is only natural that a student’s cultural background, home and family relationships and views of their world impact how they see and learn. How wonderful it is when teachers take the time to zero in their students concepts of self, purposes, values and goals. It is a two way street as students also take the time to understand the world of the teacher. Realizing that educators continue to have a passion for math, reading, art and life in the process of continual learning.
Teaching is challenging profession for the teachers who develop the courage to inspire a student to learn in the classroom and beyond. Lydia has the advantage of having a mother who is a seasoned and engaged educator. I have heard her say “Lydia the important thing to remember is to focus on doing our best-that does not mean it has to be perfect!” Jan’s approach of staying on the course and pressing on is one of the cornerstones of her teaching, and I see that characteristic already in Lydia too.
I often ask Lydia which teachers have provided a spontaneous and hearty laugh during the day. As a lifelong learner I have come to know that laughter provides a needed release from tension and is a form of relaxation. Funny stories connecting to a related topic play an important role in learning curriculum and remembering. Think for a minute how many graduation speeches from high school and college have quoted Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You Will Go” Point proven that surprises and contrast provide the humor that all ages need to learn. On that note, a big thank you to Mr. Walz and all math educators who instill in their students “you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” In observance of Pi Day, he challenged his students to create something related to pi. It could be in the form of a song, story, poem, artwork, baking, etc. Lydia selected to do an art project using recycled milk jug caps. She also brought some of her mother’s wonderfully thin and very tasty rolled sugar cookies decorated with the pi symbol.
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