Conference highlights math in everyday life

GVL / Hannah Mico. Teachers played math games together to get a gist of different activities they could do with their students in their own classrooms.

GVL / Hannah Mico. Teachers played math games together to get a gist of different activities they could do with their students in their own classrooms.

Students and community members gathered Saturday at Grand Valley State University to attend presentations during the annual Math in Action Conference.

Charlene Beckmann, a mathematics professor at GVSU, has been the co-chair for the conference since 2007.

Beckmann said the university continues to host the event every year because it provides an opportunity for both students and teachers to learn from others in their field. This year, more than 200 people registered from areas across the state.

“It provides mathematics education ideas, activities and updates on state and national standards for area teachers,” she said. “Our goals are to help reach our staff to help them not only learn math, but help them learn ways of teaching.”

She added that the conference highlights the importance of math in everyday life.

“I don’t think you can live without mathematics,” Beckmann said. “I think it’s everywhere. You can’t avoid it so you might as well become a friend.”

Firas Hindeleh, assistant mathematics professor, has been Beckmann’s co-chair for Math in Action for four years. Hindeleh said the event is important because it helps keep teachers updated with research and the current education standards in the state, but it has other benefits, too.

“It is an opportunity for our students to see the real topics they’re going to face in the future,” he said. “It’s a win-win for the community and students.”

He added that some students are afraid of math because they do not like to make mistakes, which is a human trait.

“In mathematics, it’s a place where we encourage people to make mistakes and correct them,” Hindeleh said. “We deal with a lot of these anxieties, especially at lower levels. We need to encourage students to explore and tell them they can do these things.”

Beckmann agreed that students are often afraid of math, but those who want to become math teachers can help combat this fear by loving their students, loving their subject and teaching why things work instead of only explaining how.

Paul Garrett, a senior at GVSU, is studying to become a mathematics teacher. Garrett is one of the many students who attended the event for the first time, choosing to volunteer as an opportunity to learn from other teachers in the area.

Garrett said he wants to teach mathematics for a variety of reasons. Like Beckmann and Firas, he believes math is important for everyday life.

“Math is a valuable tool for everyone and anyone that expects to succeed,” Garrett said. “It’s an art and a language that stimulates thinking and creativity, teaches and demands perseverance, and helps someone understand the world around them. I want to show people this and help them understand it.”

Prospective teachers, current teachers and others in the education field could choose from 44 presentations throughout the day. The presentations covered topics for all grade levels between kindergarten and college, but they primarily focused on elementary and secondary levels.