Professor helps students achieve moments of “Eureka!”
As a girl Angie Hodge never would have pictured herself in the role she now has at UNO.
It’s that moment you suddenly get it.
The light bulb goes on. You discover gold.
Angie Hodge, the first Dr. George Haddix Community Chair in Mathematics at UNO, creates those eureka moments. Instead of just lecturing at her students and having them copy down notes, she practices “inquiry-based learning.” This means she engages her students as much as possible in problem-solving activities during class.
“I like to put some problem up there and let them work on it on their own for a while, then work with a partner, then all come back together as a group and share with me and the class how they did it. I want to show them that is what mathematicians do — they figure out logic and problem-solving on their own.
“If I just tell them how to do it, they miss out on the fun part — the ‘ah-ha’ moment.”
Hodge grew up in northern Minnesota. (That wasn’t so long ago. She’s only 33.) In those days, she never would have pictured herself becoming a math teacher, let alone a math professor whose job now is to encourage students to become math teachers.
She was one of those kids in class who’d hide in the corner.
She liked math. She’d always finish the homework early. She was good at it. But math class bored her because her teachers bored her. Most of them just lectured at her.
“I didn’t fall in love with the idea of teaching math right away. I’m a first-generation college student. My parents were just happy I was in school. I started out an elementary education major, because I knew I wanted to teach.
“Thankfully, I had some amazing college professors who saw my potential and convinced me to consider grad school. They saw some talent in me that I didn’t know I had.”
Now she wants to do the same for students at UNO. Since coming to Omaha two years ago from North Dakota State, she’s continued her mission to seek out students like the one she used to be — students with math ability and a desire to teach but who haven’t put the two together — and show them that teaching the math can be fun.
That it should be fun.
She wants to get students of all ages in Omaha to see that maybe they’re actually good in math.
“Usually students have stories to tell about teachers or parents who told them they weren’t math savvy — in much harsher terms,” she says. “If there’s one thing that makes me mad, it’s thinking that someone would actually tell someone this.
“Sometimes it takes a lot of tears and getting through pain before the students will actually understand that they are good at math.”
Hodge’s top goals at UNO:
1. For UNO to be viewed as a leader in inquiry-based learning in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
2. For UNO to be a place where Nebraska students think of going when considering mathematics or mathematics education.
3. For UNO to be a visible outreach center in the community, especially in mathematics education.
She’s already found many ways to reach out to the community.
Along with other UNO faculty members, she’s helped host math workshops and monthly gatherings for Omaha-area teachers to promote lifelong learning and keep them excited about math.
She’s helped the local Girls Inc. with its annual summer camp for middle-school girls who show promise in STEM areas. Most of those girls come from families whose household income is less than $30,000. Hodge and other UNO faculty members and students try to engage these girls in a hands-on approach to understanding STEM concepts.
The camp’s name: Eureka!
She has many other plans for outreach, such as hosting non-intimidating math workshops for the general public. She loves being at a school that values community engagement.
“At UNO, service is not just something you do to check off something on a list,” she says. “Instead, faculty and administration here work together to make the Omaha area a better place to live.”
Faculty support is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you would like to help bring the best and brightest faculty members to the university – people like Angie Hodge –please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.