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Educator Spotlight: Math Educator Leah Iyer '08
Rachelle Garbarine

Introduction: We are excited to continue our Educator Spotlight series, which regularly will bring you inside the classroom of one of our exceptional educators. In doing so, the series will offer you a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, preparing them for college and beyond while forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community.  Today, we are spotlighting Math Educator Leah Iyer '08. Our other spotlights featured Science Educator Joleen Smith, Theology Educator Austin Faur and English Educator Maria Hill.

Leah Iyer - Educator Spotlight

One Thursday afternoon recently, math students in Room 203 were playing a game of numbers. While it was a lesson on the quadratic formula, which initially elicited a few groans, Educator Leah Iyer ’08 turned her seventh period Math II Honors Class into an engaging, numerical tic-tac-toe competition.

“The hope is that the students understand the content... avoid memorizing the ‘rules’ and instead rely on logic and number sense,” said Math Educator Leah Iyer' 08.

Learning how to use one of the top five formulas in math may be a little scary - even for the most devoted aspiring mathematicians. So Iyer takes an inventive approach to teaching both the formula and math, which often gets a bad rap as an uncreative, left-brain activity. Doing so, has endeared this soft-spoken Gibbons alumna with students who appreciate and respect her passion for the power of numbers.

For this class Iyer, who has been teaching at her alma mater for five years, works through some quadratic equations with her students. After she is satisfied they understand the lesson, she groups the students, armed with white boards and calculators, into pairs to practice using the formula by playing tic-tac-toe. The assignment? The first three sets of students who correctly solve three equations in a row - up, down, across, or diagonally - are the winners.

At first, some of the students seem a little tentative, feeling as though they shouldn’t be having fun in math class. That feeling, however, quickly vanishes, and soon students are talking in low and high voices, busily tapping the keys on their calculators, encouraging one another, and solving the problems. Pronouncements of, “I got it,” or “I figured it out,” are heard as students acknowledge their math skills with high fives and fist bumps.

Meanwhile, Iyer commands the room, checking problems, offering guidance, discussing solutions. She has stopped, at least once, at every desk. With the winners announced, Iyer goes over using the formula to predict the types of solutions an equation will have and walks students through the difference between rational and irrational numbers.

“The hope,” she said, “is that the students understand the content... avoid memorizing the ‘rules’ and instead rely on logic and number sense.”

What it all adds up to is this: In Iyer’s class, making math engaging and fun is serious business.