Tuba City High students use new technology to exercise their mind with math

Tuba City High School calculus students use Texas Instruments graphing calculators to do their assigned math work. Rosanda Suetopka Thayer/NHO
2/12/2013 11:54:00 AM

By Rosanda Suetopka Thayer

Native students looking to help solve tribal environmental and natural resource problems and find new solutions to water and coal issues will likely find that a solid foundation in basic algebra will help.

RayeLynn McCabe, a long-time math teacher at Tuba City High (TCH), advocates helping all students in college-prep or advanced placement programs at TCH to understand algebra, college algebra and even calculus.

"I believe that algebra skills are the most important foundation for higher mathematics," McCabe said. "If a student is seeking a post-secondary education, then they will usually take a college algebra class or even calculus or beyond. The better their algebra foundation, the more they'll enjoy those classes. Some students will even find that if they really paid attention in high school, it will pay off in college classes. Our hope at TC High is that after they leave here, they will have the basic skills to be successful in whatever math classes they end up in. I always tell my own students, 'you get what you put into it.'"

While some might have difficulty seeing how these advanced math classes have a practical application in everyday life, McCabe sees it differently.

"It might seem difficult to see where analyzing polynomial functions would have practical applications in most people's lives but mathematics also requires you to use analytical skills as well as organizational skills. If you're careless you have a tendency to make more mistakes," McCabe said. "Mathematics even tests your patience. A lot of times, math gets a bad rap but when students understand and embrace those relationships as well as other benefits of using mathematics, they will have a much better appreciation of the subject."

Algebra skills help with more complex university science classes but taking classes in trigonometry and calculus also contributes to other success in formula development and eventual mathematical probability outcome.

McCabe is also using the Promethean Planet whiteboard to project large illustrations to help the entire class see the assigned problems. Sharing problem solutions and worksheets on a big screen creates a more engaging workstudy and round-table environment.

"I am still exploring and integrating more ideas from the Promethean Planet website into my classroom work," McCabe said. "Both my students and I are taking baby steps in using this new technology to help us with our graphs, work problems and complex solutions. But it's exciting to have the use of this new technology to assist us."

Students in the TCH calculus and advanced math classes also use school owned Texas Instrument graphing calculators. These graphing calculators are invaluable to McCabe teaching in algebra II, functions and calculus classes. It allows the students to be more hands-on and see the actual graphs for themselves.