Dublin High School’s Barbara Hall Brings Industry Experience to Teaching Math
Barbara Hall is Dublin High School’s lead teacher in the math department. She started her journey in education after a career in industry at General Motors. OneDublin.org recently spoke with Mrs. Hall to learn more about how she approaches the challenge of teaching math to high school students.
OneDublin.org: What is your favorite thing about teaching math?
Barbara Hall: “I love math. I always have. So I love teaching it. In addition, I love teaching because I enjoy interacting with the students and at the same time passing on to them mathematical skills and knowledge. Solving a math problem is similar to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Teaching math is also similar to completing a puzzle.
“I am always trying to determine the best way to explain a math concept. I know where the students are and I know where they need to be to understand a concept or problem. My challenge is to determine the best way or plan to move from point A (where the students are) to point B (understanding the concept or problem). Putting the steps together for the plan is like putting a puzzle together.”
OneDubin.org: Tell me a bit about your journey from industry into teaching.
Hall: “I have been teaching since the fall of 1991. Teaching is my second career. I worked in Information Technology for a division of General Motors in Detroit after graduating from college. I took time off to start a family and when I returned to the work force I decided to earn my teaching credential. I always wanted to be a teacher.
“I did my student teaching at Dublin High School for Ms. Dorothy Dow, head of the math department, during the second semester of 1991. In the fall of 1991 I taught in a middle school in Tracy. The following fall (1992), Dublin had a part-time position teaching mathematics and I was thrilled to be hired and have been teaching at DHS ever since.
“This year I teach Algebra 2 with Trig (1 section) and Precalculus (4 sections). I have taught several different math courses; Prealgebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Precalculus. I don’t just teach high level math courses. These past two years have been unusual. Normally, I try to teach a lower level course along with a higher level course.
“I have been the math department lead teacher (chairman) since the former lead teacher, Ms. Dorothy Dow, retired in June of 2004. I do not lead any clubs etc. because my time is spent helping students before and after school and working on department issues”
OneDublin.org: How do you spend your time when you are not teaching?
Hall: “During the school year from September to June most of my free time is spent on teacher activities; grading tests and homework, updating grades, creating test and quizzes, lesson planning for the day, week and month. Also, I spend time on departmental responsibilities. My life is uneventful and to some it probably appears dull during the school year. I need to spend a large amount of time preparing to teach to help my students be successful in math. When I have free time, I enjoy reading, baking, knitting and spending time with my family.”
OneDublin.org: Are you doing anything different in your approach to math this year?
Hall: “Each year I adjust my lesson plans and how I teach the course content depending on student results from the previous year. For example, the state test for Precalculus students last year showed students scored the lowest in Probability. This school year, students are required to write the combination factorial definition each time it is used in a problem so that students will remember the formula. In the past students were allowed to use their calculator to find the value of the combination and of course calculators are not allowed on the state math tests. In previous years the picture program project assigned in Precalculus as an end of year project was due at the end of May. This year the date of this project has been moved to April 1 for several reasons; it will be completed before spring break, many students will have one less project due at the end of the year and these students will be able to participate and enjoy end of year school activities.
OneDublin.org: How do you encourage your students?
Hall: “I know math does not come easy to some students. I believe that if I maintain a positive learning environment in my classroom that is also relaxing with a minimum amount of stress, then students will want to come to class and to learn math. Humor inserted periodically while teaching, helps students to enjoy what they are learning. I encourage all my students to actively participate in class by asking or answering questions or presenting a problem to the class. No question in my class is a dumb question and every student, maybe with the help of a student or teacher ‘life line’, can present a problem.”
OneDublin.org: How do you inspire girls to continue in math?
Hall: I try to inspire and encourage all my students to continue in mathematics. Now and in the future, our country will need more engineers, scientists, economists etc. in order to compete successfully in the global economy and to produce the next generation of technology, medicine, etc. Mathematics is the basis for these careers. In addition, the study of mathematics requires the development of critical thinking skills. When students are working on a challenging problem and they ask me to solve it, I tell them that they need to examine what they are given, develop a problem solving strategy and work on the solution. After all, when they are working in the real world, they will be expected to determine the solution or answer to a problem based on data given to them. No one will give them the answer!”
OneDublin.org: Any advice for parents about homework or this school year?
Hall: Homework is extremely important in math. It should be thought of as practice work. Math is like reading or playing a sport. Concepts and skills are mastered when they are practiced daily, both inside and outside the classroom. Students should schedule a specific time each school day to work on homework in an environment that has little or no distractions. Homework also provides students with a tool to measure how well they understood the concepts presented in class. I always tell my students that if they have difficulty on an assignment, they need to come in the next morning before school and have their questions and problems resolved. I believe that if a student’s questions are resolved then the student will feel more confident and comfortable in class that day.
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