Solving for why students should teach math

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Dr. George Haddix Community Chair wants to help students by doing more than lecturing

She was one of those kids in class who’d hide in the corner.

She liked math. She’d always finish the homework early. But math class bored her because her teachers bored her.

“Lots of my teachers just lectured at me.”

Angie Hodge grew up in northern Minnesota. (That wasn’t so long ago. She’s only 31.) 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.

“I didn’t fall in love with the idea of teaching math right away,” says Hodge, who recently was named the first Dr. George Haddix Community Chair in Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences. “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.”

Those professors made a difference in her life. Now she wants to do the same for students at UNO. She is on a 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.

As the new Haddix chair, Hodge teaches this concept by example. 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 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.”

Another passion, she says, is getting the women to consider becoming math teachers and to show them it isn’t just for the men.

Hodge taught at North Dakota State before UNO selected her for the Haddix chair. The Haddix gift enabled UNO to conduct a national search.

The chair is named after Dr. George Haddix, a 1962 Omaha U graduate who’s passionate about promoting collaboration in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math.

American students rank 21st in the world in science education and 25th in math.

Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing them to compete in the 21st century economy. One way to do that is by recruiting and training math and science teachers.

Support for faculty is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. Increased support for endowed chairs like the two Haddix chairs, as well as professorships and graduate positions, is crucial to the University of Nebraska’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest educators – people like Angie Hodge.

If you would like to help recruit more math and science teachers, please give online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.

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