Most people who have difficulty in math have trouble because they are visual learners being taught by analytical thinkers — the freaks that put math in their coffee in the morning.
I think what makes me a good teacher is that while I’m an analytical thinker, I was taught Algebra by someone who was VERY skilled at visual explanations. There were six of us in her Algebra II class, and if she had to explain something six different ways, she would. She hired me to teach the same material that she had taught me, having confidence obviously in her ability to teach it to me.
So. When I started teaching, I quickly figured out that the analytical thinkers, who process like I do, aren’t typically the ones asking questions. So I got very good at visual explanations. From my experience, math teachers that are so deeply entrenched in analytical thought processes have difficulty explaining to visual learners and get frustrated when people ask questions…. which in turn leads to frustration and people who are already anxious will shut down and not learn anything.
Most of the people that I work with fall into that category, and they come to me after they’re already frustrated. My job is to ease them out of that frustration and provide a visual explanation. If I do my job well, I get fired. It’s very weird.
Today I had one of those rare analytical thinkers come to work with me on Algebra II. He’s been one of my students all year this year, and I think I’m getting close to getting fired, because he now just comes for 15 minutes or so. And he really does understand, because I’ll show him how to do a problem, he’ll verbally finish it, and then say, “Oh, wow. Yeah. This stuff is easy.” What’s funny is that he’s working on logarithms and solving exponential equations — typically not stuff that’s declared to be “easy.” But because his mind processes the way that it does, he’s catching on to all of this complicated stuff very quickly. It’s fun to work with him, because I’m not having to draw as many pictures and explain four or five different ways.
I enjoy this kid. I’ll hate it if I get fired, but my days are numbered. He’s gaining confidence every day.