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Reflection on the Knowledge Domain

My graduate school experiences at Hunter College have led me to a new understanding


and appreciation for mathematics and the educators who teach it. My new perspective developed
as a result of my math courses, general education courses, and my fieldwork. During my student
teaching, as in my private tutoring, Ive had the opportunity to put my education into practice.
When I first began the Adolescent Education Program at Hunter by taking the MATH620
course Secondary School Mathematics from an Advanced Perspective I, I soon realized that I had
forgotten some material that I learned in previous courses. At times, when the professor casually
said a term that I knew was loaded with mathematical meaning, I noticed that the other students
calmly listened and took notes. At the same time, however, my mind raced as I wondered to
myself, What exactly does that word mean again? I know its important but I cant recall
precisely why. Later in the evenings, so that I would not fall behind, I watched YouTube videos
at home explaining the term he had mentioned in class.
The benefit to me of being an older student is that I wanted to intimately know the
material and learn as much as possible and understand all the reasons behind the math being
presented. During my time at Hunter College, I thought to myself that I will not miss anything
that was taught and I felt genuinely interested in every topic. I was fortunate in that I was able to
take just one or two courses each semester (spring, summer, and fall) and devote myself
completely to each. I contrast this with my days of being an undergraduate student when I was
taking five or six courses each semester, and due to the competing priorities, I was not able to
concentrate as deeply as I was during my graduate coursework.

With respect to my knowledge of the subject matter, I think of the MATH635 class in
Problem Solving Explorations. Before taking this course, I felt that word problems could be
among the more difficult topics in math to learn and to teach. As a student, at times I had the
impression that perhaps I missed something or didnt recall the rules for approaching particular
word problems.
I was so relieved upon learning that there are numerous ways to approach word problems
and that some problems are nearly impossible for the brightest of minds. When we had to solve
the star problems as our class project, the professor stressed that our ideas and efforts were
being graded and that an individuals creative attempts and reasoning were usually more
important than whether or not we obtained the correct result. She wanted to see how we
attempted to solve the problems. This was very hopeful to me. This course helped turn my
trepidation into curiosity and boosted my resolve. The textbook also offered very specific
strategies to use -- some of which I had been using without knowing that they were valid
strategies that had been documented and researched.
Before I entered the Adolescent Math Education program, the understanding that I had
of math was that of a student. I believed that once I understood something, I could just explain it
to anybody else in my own words and that they too would share my understanding of the topic.
This notion continued when I first began to tutor students. Most of my students were very
capable and receptive to learning math. However, on occasion, I had students who could not
follow what I was saying. It was then I realized that teaching math cannot simply be ad hoc.
In several education courses, we were taught the importance of allowing students to teach
themselves. Specifically, we read a lot about how students need to construct their own
knowledge and how particular approaches for this can be employed; for instance, by introducing

appropriate activities, by using manipulatives, by assigning reflections, etc. Furthermore, while


the teachers role is vital especially as a facilitator and as the person who creates a supportive
environment learning is not about the teacher; its about the student.
In several courses, including SPED708, Teaching Students with Special Needs in
Inclusive Settings, we used the edTPA template for creating lesson plans. On the forms, there is a
space to enter the starter activity for a lesson. Here, I often entered that I would Activate Prior
Knowledge in order to motivate students. While teaching a lesson at Manhattan Hunter Science
High School, I began the class by asking questions that lead into the lesson that I was giving on
absolute value. From this simple exercise, I could see how the students were eager to respond
when their curiosity and participation was encouraged.
In Math Methods I, we were shown how students initially learn material in concrete ways
and then progress towards the symbolism. As an example, we worked on fraction pieces at the
start of the semester. These manipulatives help students build a mental, visual image of the math
as opposed to a purely symbolic image. Since fraction pieces are physical objects - visual
models - students can understand fractions in a concrete way. We heard that, unlike whole
numbers, fractions are not solid things but are relative to other things. Moreover, to add things
together, they must have the same name. For instance, we can add one sixth and two sixths, since
sixth is the common name. However, we cant add four oranges and two cars since they dont
have the same name. (If we tried, we would simply have a list of parts, four oranges and two
cars, instead of a total.) This will ultimately lead to the symbolic idea of common denominators.
Our professor went on to highlight that symbolism is not the math; symbolism is a recording
device.