Friday, September 16, 2005

Winnie Cooper, Math Goddess

I finally got a job teaching math today, and made an interesting discovery -- but I'll get to that in a bit.

First, a quick recap of my teaching week: Science and Spanish on Monday. This was interesting, as the teacher remembered me from last year, including a conversation in the staff room about subs being asked to jus show videos all the time. She knew I wasn't a fan of that, so she made sure I actually had something to teach! (But in her one Spanish class? A video -- one I'd shown to another teacher's classes last year! Oh, well, it was still fun. It's the History Channel's examination of the Aztecs.)

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, nothing. I'm a little surprised at how few jobs there are now, as it's usually been my experience that there are a lot more jobs by this time. On the other hand, last year I wasn't able to start subbing until December, and the year before that I was on the picket line, so maybe I'm mistaken. While I need the money, having the extra time has been helpful to get some stuff taken care of around the house, including a major clean-up of my room. I found stuff that had been in boxed up before I got married, so this has been a long time coming!

And today, I got to teach junior high math at last. This was the very-far-out-there-in-the-boonies-at-least-from-here school that I was hoping to avoid working at this year so as to save on time and gas, but out of four jobs so far this year, I've been out there twice. It's okay, it's a great school with terrific students and staff, so I'll put up with it when they need me. Pretty straightforward teaching today, I had two classes (two hours long each, with a two-hours-and-lunch prep in between -- you've got to love those block schedules when they work out that way). We did a little homework correction, a little journal writing, a quiz (what a shock; if teachers don't know what kind of sub they're getting, it's often either a video or a quiz!), and a little preview of the next chapter.

But the interesting discovery came in one of the rooms I was teaching in. The teacher had laminated an article from The New York Times about the actress Danica McKellar. She is probably best known for playing Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years way back in the '80s, and is now also known as Elsie Snuffin in The West Wing. (Her entry in the IMDB is right here.) Well, it turns out that in college, she really got into mathematics in a big way -- hence the title of this post. She was so good that her professor at UCLA encouraged her and a classmate (who is now a math professor herself) to do some high level research work -- the only undergraduates he'd ever asked to do so! The three of them even wrote a proof, and presented it at a symposium at Rutgers, where Danica and her classmate were the only undergraduate presenters. She considered going into math as a career, but liked acting too much, and went back to it full time after graduation. But she still has a hand in math as well. She's the celebrity spokesperson for Figure This, and has a section devoted to answering math questions on her website (, of course). And yes, she's played the lead in a production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof. I just thought it was really cool, and I wanted to share it with you.

Something else I've been wanting to share are some websites I picked up from the book Rookie Teaching for Dummies. Okay, yeah, I'm not really a rookie, but I sure feel like one still at times, especially after all the mistakes I made while I was in a previously unrecorded circle of Dante's Interno* Marysville. Anyway, among all the good advice, this book has some fun links that I hope my technical guru will eventually put over there into my sidebar:

  • The Oriental Trading Company, a great site for buying little goodies for your students, including personalized pencils. My favorite that the author created was "My teacher loves me, but in a platonic way."
  •, the website of the book's author, W. Michael Kelly, and probably a site I need to spend some time on, as I've never been terribly strong with calculus anyway, and I've forgotten most of it now anyway.
  • Some examples of WebQuests -- for students of all ages -- can be found at this site in Saskatoon (that's in Canada, for the geographically challenged).
  •, the educaitonal arm of the Discovery Channel's website.
  •'s TeacherSource
  • Teacher's Network, including a section of resources for new teachers. I wish I'd known about them a couple of years ago...
  •, which includes chatboards and other stuff. Again, why didn't I know about them a couple of years ago?
  • Two sites where one can quickly and easily create a class website without knowing a lot of HTML: (free, but students and parents have to register, and it pays for itself with ads) and Home Page Builder at Scholastic (also free, without the ads).
  •, those little quirky games or puzzles that break the ice at parties, in a new classroom, etc.
  • Education World -- the name says it all, really.

Okay, is that enought to keep you busy for a while?

Already I have two jobs lined up for next week, so maybe things will start getting a little more regular. I hope so.

* Gee, do you think I'm still a little bitter about all that happened in Marysville?

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