Bridging the gap between math and CTE

By Rich Barratt

ROCKLAND — I teach a curriculum that’s deep in math.

From basic operations to geometry to trigonometry, math plays a big part in the machine tool industry. But as a precision machine technology instructor at Mid-Coast School of Technology, I’ve never had the proper training I need to teach the math that’s such a crucial part of the trade.

That’s where the Math-in-CTE program comes in.

Over the past year, Georges Valley High School math teacher Kristy Hastings and I have worked together to identify the math I use in my curriculum and insert it into lesson plans.

We’ve been among almost 20 pairs of career-and-technical education (CTE) and math teachers participating in Maine’s first year of the Math-in-CTE program, coordinated by Doug Robertson at the Department of Education.

The program doesn’t make me a math teacher, but it shows me where the math is embedded in my curriculum and offers help to bridge that gap between the career-and-technical education classes we teach here at the Mid-Coast School of Technology and the math classes students take at their sending schools.

Kristy and I spent a lot of time over the past year sitting together as I explained to her what I teach, and she helped me identify the math and plan a lesson around it.

This program isn’t here to force math into the CTE program, but to identify the math used in the trades and put it into a lesson plan.

Math-in-CTE has helped me feel more comfortable teaching math. In the past, I would breeze over a math process, not giving students the proper reasoning why a math concept works. That’s because I didn’t know myself.

Now, when I come across a math concept I do not understand, I can visit, call or email Kristy, give her the problem and have her explain it to me.

Since I have been part of the program, we have co-taught several math lessons, which answer the question, “When will I ever use this?” for Kristy’s students and mine, as well.

In July, Kristy and I will become co-lead facilitators for the second year of Math-in-CTE. I took the position because I believe in this program and thought I could help others who struggle with math as I do.

Sometimes, I fear the fact that I can’t teach something to my students. But having a partner to bounce ideas off of reduces that fear of not knowing if I’m giving the correct answers to my students.

Join us for the 2011-12 school year as we expand the Math-in-CTE program to include teachers of automotive technology and the culinary arts.

It’s a great experience to see CTE and math teachers sit together, discuss their curricula and learn from each other.

It usually takes a few days to close the communication gap, but by the end of the first weeklong workshop, we come away with a mutual understanding.

Rich Barratt is a machine technology instructor at Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland. He can be reached at rbarratt@mcst.tec.me.us.

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