EMT 705

Robert A. Benson
July 8, 1996

Chip Healy's Build-a-Book Geometry class is what I would call a radical teaching approach to the traditional method that we are all familiar with in the classroom. His unique approaches to having the students be a source of knowledge while the teacher is a facilitator has helped broaden my mind as a mathematics educator. I have felt a reemphasis in what I believe are the role and responsibility of the teacher in the classroom. The Build-a-Book technique has shed new light on what constitutes real learning and has given me several ideas that will improve motivation and knowledge in my classroom.

During my four years of experience as a teacher, I have come to find that my role and responsibility are to motivate the students to learn and understand mathematics, not simply to receive a passing grade. I also think that my teaching strategies should help the students improve their chances to be successful no matter what course they take in life. Upon analyzing the Build-a-Book class, I found these ideals that I have as a teacher to be more valuable to me than I thought. The format of the Build-a-Book class reminded me of how positive reinforcement promotes success. Mr. Healy was able to encourage through his words and openness to the student's ideas. He did a good job by never making them feel as though their ideas were wrong, which can lower self-esteem. The group and class interaction also promoted success in the students. They developed the self-confidence to express themselves by explaining their views about Geometry. I agree with Mr. Healy when he said, They not only communicate better, but they listen to each other and consider the opinions of everyone. They have learned to stand up for what they believe in and when it is necessary to compromise to reach an agreement. This is the type of self-confidence that promotes success in life. The most important thing this class did was to motivate the students to learn mathematics. The students took charge of their learning and met the challenge head-on. Although no one was quite sure why the class seemed ideal but it is certain from the book that the motivation to learn was there. I feel it is because the students had a goal they wanted to achieve, prove they can learn and be responsible for that learning on their own.

Having my students learn the conceptual aspects of mathematics has always been important to me. Even more significant is their ability to use mathematics in a problem solving situation. If they can accept the challenge that a real world problem poses, then they will develop the self-confidence to face the challenges that this world presents. That is to me what real learning is all about. Mr. Healy's Build-a-Book class also raises this issue of real learning in the classroom. However, his method does a far superior job of preparing students to accept the challenges of life. The concepts of having students derive their knowledge from each other in a cooperative setting is the type of challenge students need. They learn to be effective communicators and problem solvers, as well as individuals who know how to learn. The idea of knowing how to gather and retain knowledge for an internal and not an external (grades, college, etc.) purpose is what most teachers I speak to want for their students. As for self-confidence, I feel Mr. Healy said it perfect in the following quotation, "When a person is given a stiff challenge (like the no-book class) and is able to meet that challenge head-on and survive, the resulting increase in confidence and self-esteem in overwhelming."

The Build-a-Book class has also forced me to reevaluate my teaching methods in the classroom. Although I use open-ended questions (which I feel promotes conceptual understanding), my methods are somewhat traditional. If the class is not using technology or problem solving, then I am generally lecturing. There is not much teacher to student or student to student discussions, unless a question arises. I am relying on labs/activities to motivate the students. This will definitely change next year. Through careful preparation and time I am going to implement a cooperative setting in the classroom. I also plan to somehow use Chip Healy's idea of investigation sheets by giving the student concepts, definitions or problems to elaborate on within their groups, hopefully without books, and then discuss with the class. I may or may not be able to interchange group ideas the way he did but I definitely plan to try. I would like to become more of a facilitator and have the students provide the class and each other with knowledge. I think the first step next year will be to promote more student and less teacher discussion in my classroom. Since I consider that there is a place for lecture in the classroom and I do know if I can rely on the students to recognize misconceptions, the change to facilitator is going to take time. I also sense that using this method in an Algebra class is going to require more preparation and thought.

After writing this paper I have discovered my thoughts and emotions on the Build-a-Book class to be more intense and upon analyzing what this teaching method would do for a student's self-esteem and motivation in the class room, I am certain that I will use these ideas in the classroom. If I want my students to be successful in life, then I must feel confident that they know how to learn. This requires communication, problem solving and advanced self-esteem. These are qualities that I believe Build-a-Book develops. I appreciate the idea of having the students generate the knowledge in the classroom and any change I can make in that direction is an improvement in my teaching. This book was written to tell teachers to get off your rear, take a risk, and change for the better of your students. I will finish by saying, "Having never tried this approach, how do I know what it can for the students?"

Return to EMT 705