Video to Watch . . .
We recently spoke with high school math teacher Esther Brunat about the critical role that math can play in preparing students for success.
Ms. Brunat, who teaches high school math, algebra II, and trigonometry in Texas, is impassioned about the role that math studies play in equipping her students for a variety of critically important careers that will help the world.
You’ll want to watch this video. Here are some edited portions of what Ms. Brunat told the Student Research Foundation.
On Where Her Students Are in Preparing for Careers
“When you’re a high school math teacher, it’s crazy to think that your students are almost adults. These humans that are sitting in front of you? They’re already considering career pathways. What are they going to do after high school?
“As a teacher, am I equipping them for the real world they are about to encounter in a few years?
“I talk to my students about, `What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And a lot of them say, `I want to be a YouTuber and an influencer.’ And so I collaborated with the Student Research Foundation to talk about what some of my thoughts are as a high school math teacher and how we’re equipping our students for what they are about to encounter.”
On the Role of Math in Student Preparedness
“I think we prepare our students with math by using that problem-solving muscle that’s in their brain. We do a lot of abstract, critical thinking. Unfortunately, a lot of it is intangible. You can’t really see the results right now. And our students want to see results as soon as possible.”
On Generation Z
“Gen Z, in my opinion, is like `super woke.’ They know about all kinds of different things that are happening around the world. They’re super politically aware and conscious. And they’re watching us deal with environmental issues, with a pandemic. And they’re seeing how we’re handling it. And so they want to be part of the solution.
“In years past, I have always told my students, `The reason we teach you math is because it’s working that muscle that’s in your brain that teaches you to critically think, teaches you to problem-solve, because in the future when you’re the ones that are in charge and somebody spills oil in the Gulf, you’re going to have to figure out how to clean it up. Or we need a vaccine in 12 months. Or it snows in Texas, and we need better power solutions . . . that’s going to be YOU!` and you need to solve problems, and those solutions need to be quick. And better yet, maybe even find preventions, so these problems don’t happen in the first place!
“That’s what this critical thinking and problem-solving that we do in math helps you! And so I think that Algebra II and trig prepare our students for fields that do just that . . . that solve problems to advance society.”
Advancing a Bigger Picture
Ms. Brunat is extremely perceptive when she points out that it is difficult to get math students to see the bigger picture – that they are in fact adding skills that will later help them solve the world’s problems – when all they can see is that they are solving a smaller, constrained problem on paper or on a calculator or computer.
Yet as she points out, students are passionate about wanting to solve the problems that are disrupting our world. Perhaps one key is to talk to students about that “problem-solving muscle” that Ms. Brunat is so excited about. And another thing. If we can bring her level of passion to our classrooms, we can move our students closer to changing the world.
We Invite You to Explore Your Students’ College & Career Options with Us . . .
Students who participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study will gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with their interests, passions, and aptitudes. Participants will receive information on college and career opportunities that match their interests.