Nancy Pevey still uses a document camera in her classroom. She admits to telling some “pretty corny” math jokes. She makes errors while working sample math problems for her students—usually on purpose.
Pevey, an associate professor of Mathematics at Pellissippi State Community College, has a stockpile of low-tech tricks stashed up her sleeve, all of them used to make math easier for her students to learn. Those techniques are some of the reasons she recently was recognized with a statewide education honor: the Teaching Excellence Award, presented by the Tennessee Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges.
Pevey, originally from Starkville, Miss., has been teaching math full time at Pellissippi State since 2000. She also has taught middle- and high-schoolers, and she was a teacher at Bearden and Northwest junior high schools before the Knoxville–Knox County system consolidated.
For the veteran faculty member, making math easier for her students to learn is all about interaction. That’s why Pevey chooses to work math problems by hand on the document camera, a modernized overhead projector. Though she certainly has access to newer tools such as PowerPoint presentations, she believes they just can’t replace the give-and-take of talking through a math solution with her students.
“Writing out the math problems on the document camera makes it fresh every time,” said Pevey. “I like to do more than just hit the ‘go’ button. If I happen to think of a better example that addresses a student’s question, I can write it out as soon as I think of it.
“I’d call my classes ‘interactive lectures.’ Students solve the math problems as we talk together about what’s going on.”
But why introduce mistakes?
“I make them to help show the students how they might have easily gotten a wrong answer,” Pevey said. “Of course, every so often I make a mistake by mistake. We can all learn from that, too.”
Telling math jokes, she says, is a tool she uses to help her students more readily remember math formulas and rules.
“A corny joke or story gives students a memory hook,” said Pevey. “Math concepts are easier to remember with a story.”
The TMATYC Teaching Excellence Award is bestowed every two years. This year’s TMATYC conference took place in Chattanooga, with 24 faculty attending from Pellissippi State.
For additional information about the college, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.