Monday, December 6, 2010

Ecuador Equals Ecuador

There was a great story in the Daily News the other day about one of our local teachers, how she's come up with an ingenious way to teach math and geography together.

I know I personally love the idea, since I had trouble with both subjects when I was in class. But back then we just had teachers who were very strict, and they kept to the "old ways," that they thought were best. If we weren't sitting in the corner with a dunce cap, they were washing our mouth out with soap. In fact, to this day, I still find the taste of soap bad. Back then, and this is serious, I used to always hear one of my uncles calling ladies a battle-axe and I didn't really know what it meant. I actually thought it was a word sort of like Cadillacs and didn't know it referred to big ugly axes. Anyway, they shook me and only quit short of killing me.

Thankfully, today our kids have teachers who give a rat's a** about, you know, teaching. Back in the old days, all they could think of was their own narrow definition of propriety and enforcing it. My teachers were such hopeless wretches, the only thing they ever taught me was they were out to get children. Whether there were mandatory reporters in those days, I don't know. One thing I do know, I wouldn't want to be caught cleaning the blackboards after hours ... the filthy sadists. Is it any wonder I did so poorly? I was thinking more about survival than anything else. But somehow still I managed to reconcile a checkbook to the nearest $100, pass the driving test, and take out my own garbage with a minimum of assistance from anyone. To this day, when I accomplish something, I pump my fist and say, "I did it," while alternately fingering the ground toward any of my old teachers who have died and gone to hell.

Forgive my digression, please -- it's unnecessary -- I didn't mean to say any of that. This was meant solely as a post about how much better teachers are these days. As evidence, I present the teacher who was featured in the newspaper the other day. Darn it, I threw away the paper and don't remember her name. I only remember the thing she did, what they were featuring, her brainchild of combining math and geography, albeit at the present time only in a limited way.

We all know geography is the study of memorizing the countries of the world. There's less a need for it these days thanks to GPS. But, still, it helps to know by heart how to get to certain places, even if it means coming up with creative ways to make the information stick in our memory. And that's what this gal's come up with. Good looking lady, too, not like the old battle-axes they had when I was in school...

Anyway, I said her technique is presently very limited. She's either going to need to expand it or hope others do. It might take someone in the university to put his mind to this. But it's a great pedagogy, bar none. I know I love it. I can actually say, just reading about it makes the country "Ecuador" stick in my mind, and that's the only geographical word she's got so far. Ever since I read the article, I've known about Ecuador. And if you read the rest of my post, you're going to remember it too.

OK, here it is. What she's got so far is the theory that "Ecuador" and "equal" are similar words. So, to combine the two subjects, she's teaching the arithmetic tables and substituting equal with Ecuador. Such as, 5 + 3 Ecuador 8, 4 x 3 Ecuador 12, 21 - 5 Ecuador 16, and 10 / 5 Ecuador 2, and so on. It also works with harder problems, she carefully explained, going all the way up to numbers that are a lot bigger, which would be common sense. 4000 x 3 Ecuador 12000, 1 million + 2 million Ecuador a whole bunch, and so forth.

I can't think of other geographical terms she could teach by this method. Maybe you can help. I myself don't have a teaching degree. I was scared straight about teaching when I was in school. Now, of course, I know I shouldn't hold it against all teachers just because I had the bad apples. You've always got good and bad, and the two are not Ecuador.

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