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Dear St. Andrew's Family,

When I meet new people out in the wild, I can usually predict their reaction when they hear that I’m a high school math teacher. Often, they immediately express to me how much they hate math. I have to admit I think it’s rather odd to tell someone you just met how you loathe the very thing to which he has dedicated his life’s work. (“You work for the Red Cross? Yeah, I absolutely detest charities.”) Another, even more common reaction is to tell me just how awful they are at math, taking pride in how colorfully they can describe the extent to which they struggled with the subject in school. Again, I find this a bit odd. Would we boast of our inability to read or write to an English teacher? Why is it not only okay but apparently a point of pride to be "bad" at math? 

I love math. To me, it is a beautiful, complex web of ideas that can delight us with a puzzle, or shed light on the world around us. How could the math I love be a groan/panic/boredom inducing menace for so many people? The only resolution to this paradox that I can see is that the math I love and the math they hate are really two totally different entities. Without a focus on beautiful ideas, math's procedures and operations lose their larger meaning and purpose, and math becomes a boring, repetitive, unconnected series of challenges that demand rote memorization without real understanding. This lack of connection to the deep conceptual backdrop of mathematics is not only the reason math haters don’t enjoy the subject—it's also the reason they struggle mightily to learn it well. 

As a math teacher, the painful part of this disconnect is that I believe it’s all our fault. The way math is taught often creates an oppressive and obfuscating imposter subject.

I aspire every day to fight against this imposter math, and to connect my students to the idea-rich math that I know and love. I try to make every problem we tackle in class or in homework one that a student cares about solving, whether by framing the class with a running conceptual thread that makes learning feel like unearthing the next piece of a mathematical mystery, or by investigating an application of real import, or by just engaging with a curious puzzle. I try to never tell a student something that they can figure out for themselves, because math is about discovery and exploration. Newspapers don’t print already-filled-in crossword puzzles; it's not the answers but getting to the answers that's the point. And I try to help students become vulnerable enough to take risks productively and make mistakes confidently, so that the more difficult, but more satisfying, work of idea-making (as opposed to procedure-regurgitating) is accessible to them.
 
As I write out these aspirational teaching goals, I am struck by how often I fail to meet them, and, how when I don’t, I am contributing to the creeping oppressiveness of "imposter math" by default. But it’s this awareness of my sworn enemy that keeps me engaged and excited about my profession every day. 

Even if I can't lead every student I teach to fall in love with math the way I have, I hope that at the very least I am connecting them with math's big ideas in some real way. I like to think I am helping to rear a generation of students who won't, twenty years down the road, regale every stray math teacher they meet with stories of how much they hated nasty old mathematics.

All the best,
Bowman Dickson
Mathematics Faculty; Cross-Country & Swimming Coach
bdickson@standrews-de.org
Celebrate the Holidays at SAS!

Join us next weekend (Friday, December 9 through Sunday, December 11) for Christmas at St. Andrew's: three days of holiday festivities, Saints athletics, and arts performances, including our annual Service of Lessons & Carols at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday in the A. Felix du Pont, Jr. Memorial Chapel. (Refreshments will be served following the service.) A full schedule of events is available on our website. If you are planning on attending, please RSVP. Hope to see you on campus next weekend!

In the Classroom
Classrooms shifted into high gear for this three week period between Thanksgiving and winter breaks. Below, VI Formers in Kelly Lazar's Calculus BC class crunch the numbers. 
Advanced Topics Tutorial in Math students work through some whiteboard problems under the watchful eye of Math Department Chair Eric Finch.
Viviana Davila's Spanish 4 students discuss Latin American history.
Bowman Dickson (at the board, and author of today's opening letter) graphs functions with his Calculus AB students.
III Formers in Intro to the Arts rehearse their "dance through time"—an ongoing project that incorporates ballet, waltz, and swing dance, while teaching students about Laban Movement Analysis (a system for describing and analyzing performative works). 
Joseph Blake P'97 visited Will Robinson's AS Global Studies class this week to share his career and experiences working in the financial services industry in Saudi Arabia and England, and as a consultant for businesses around the world. The U.S. Marine—who grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio and served in Vietnam—left students with a final word of advice: "Find a job you love and work hard, and the world will reward you." 
Dan O'Connell brought his Intro Bio class out to the School's Organic Garden for a lesson on the process of photosynthesis and how plants store the sugar that's produced during photosynthesis. "Then they dug up some white yams and sweet potatoes to see the evidence!" said Organic Garden Director Susan Kemer.
Campus Happenings
Ed Strong ’66 P’07,’10 returned to campus on Wednesday, November 30 to deliver a Chapel Talk on "consequential inconsequentials"—those apparently small things in our lives (a gift, a conversation, a choice) that turn out to be transformational. Ed is a long-time Broadway producer and a member of St. Andrew's Board of Trustees. Earlier this year he received the 2016 SAS Distinguished Alumni Award. The day after his Chapel Talk, Ed visited classrooms and had lunch with students and Headmaster Tad Roach, then headed back to New York for the opening night of his production company's new Broadway musical A Bronx Tale. You can read more about Ed and his talk on our website; listen to his talk on our website Podcasts page; or watch a video of his talk on our Vimeo page.
We celebrated the School's annual Thanksgiving dinner in the Dining Hall on the Friday evening before Thanksgiving break commenced. Thanks to our SAGE Dining Services team for the wonderful meal! (Some faculty members got creative with their table arrangements, as you can see below.)
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Choir and Choral Scholar students participated in a Sunday afternoon "YogaSing" workshop—a yoga practice designed to improve the breathing capacity of singers, performers, and public speakers—led by YogaSing founder Suzanne Spangler Jackson. 
This year's Saturday night Dining Hall dinners have been taken over by a new program called "Tastes of Home". Founded by Richard Zhang ’18 (seen here stirring red-braised pork in the SAS kitchen with Santiago Brunet ’18), Tastes of Home allows students to work with our SAGE Dining Services team to cook their favorite meals from home for the entire School! Tastes of Home meals have, so far, featured dishes from Korea, Jamaica, Germany, Spain, and China. Read more about Tastes of Home on our website.

Alec Barreto '18 and Alex Horgan '18 (seen here) raced in the Footlocker Northeast Regional Boys "Marty Lewis" Championship Race on Saturday, November 26. Alex was the first Delaware runner to cross the finish line, coming in 60th place with a time of 16:53. Alec finished in 136th place with a time of 18:48.

Full results can be viewed on the Foot Locker Cross-Country website.

News & Notes
Support SAS Using Amazon Smile
Making a holiday purchase on Amazon? Do so through the AmazonSmile program and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to St. Andrew's! Simply click here to sign up to support SAS via AmazonSmile. Once you've selected to support us, every future eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation to the School!
We Still Want Your Ugly Mugs!
Traveling to campus this winter? Bring your unused mugs to campus for our Ugly Mug drive (we're trying to curb our campus paper cup overuse). Drop off your mug donations in the servery area of the Dining Hall.
SAS Calendars Going Fast
There are still a few 2017 SAS Wall Calendars available for order on our Saints Shop website. These calendars were designed by Class of 2017 Co-Presidents Jas Southerland ’17 and Francis Kigawa ’17, and are a fundraiser for student life events organized by the VI Form throughout the year. Order yours today!
Upcoming Events
Fri Dec 9-Sun Dec 11—Christmas at St. Andrew's
Sun Dec 11 (2:30 & 5:00 p.m.)—Service of Lessons & Carols
Fri Dec 16—Christmas Vacation Begins
Wed Jan 4—Christmas Vacation Ends (students must return by 6:00 p.m.)
Sat Jan 7—SAS College Network Reunion
Fri Jan 13—Warner Art Gallery Opening: PH15
Sat Jan 21-Thu Jan 26—First Semester Exams

All-School Calendar  |  2016-17 School Calendar  |  2017-18 School Calendar
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....
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