This story appears in the Winter 2014-2015 edition of affinity magazine! Click here to check out latest edition!
When it comes to mathematics, there is usually one correct answer to a given question. The challenge lies in “showing your work” to demonstrate how you arrived at the answer. Columbia College-Crystal Lake faculty member Tracey Connor embraces the showing-your-work-process and empowers her students to excel in math through unique methods and technology. With the eight week sessions the college employs at its Nationwide Campuses, speed, accuracy and creative teaching techniques are key to ensure the students grasp each theory.
“Advances in technology have provided instructors with more tools to teach our students math,” Connor said. “I am still amazed at how much the technology we use in our classrooms has changed over the years. Using technology to do computations is new to students, but they appreciative of how it enhances what they can learn by the time the course ends.”
While her background is in mathematics and actuarial science, Connor’s interests vary outside teaching including snorkeling (she was a volunteer diver at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago in the Caribbean reef tank), cooking and playing piano. She and her husband, Henry, live in Woodstock, Illinois and have two daughters, Reece (7) and Rainn (5), and a pet Chinchilla named Chuck. Connor, who has a master’s of science degree in applied mathematics and masters of arts in mathematics education from DePaul University, has taught for more than 17 years including in-seat and online classes for Columbia College since 2007. Her enthusiasm and innovative spirit have paid big dividends for both her students and the Crystal Lake campus.
“Tracey came to me almost two years ago with an interest in and a plan for taking her math courses to the hybrid format (utilizing both in-seat and online components in her classes),” Columbia College-Crystal Lake campus director Debra Hartman notes. “Since then, she has successfully used a variety of technology solutions to enhance student learning. Our students really benefit from her ability to use a range of approaches to meet the learning styles of all students she encounters.”
After launching the math classes successfully to the hybrid format, the mother of two girls also routinely creates her own YouTube videos explaining math concepts projecting the calculator in use to her class. She also use calculator software that emulates the graphing calculator that students are required to use in class. Connor also employs an electronic whiteboard to write out solutions to problems.
She then records videos demonstrating how to work out problems using the whiteboard and/or how to solve them using the calculator software. The videos are always less than 15 minutes so they can be easily uploaded to YouTube and also so students don’t lose interest. Her student-centered focus and enthusiasm has made her one of the most popular faculty members at the Crystal Lake campus.
“I know that math can be intimidating and I reassure my students that they can do it,” Connor says. “I do my best to have patience and explain concepts until students understand them. I think my students see that I love what I’m teaching and they decide to give math a chance. I believe in my students and sometimes that is just enough for them to put their apprehension aside and give it a try.”