By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Sharpen your pencils.
7 + 24 ÷ 8 x (4-6)²
Let me get back to you on that.
Thanks to a webinar training by Carley Taylor, Operations Coordinator for K12 Educational Development at Grand Canyon University, the answer is below.
“There are 56 questions in 90 minutes,” Taylor told a group of more than 340 participants from across the country who were enrolled in Wednesday’s math training for Praxis tests, the general knowledge exam for teacher certification.
Math being math, it can be tough to pass and become a certified teacher. It’s an important component of addressing the teacher shortage. Many taking the training by Canyon Professional Development, a branch of K12 Educational Development, were paraprofessionals who want to get into teaching and haven’t had math in awhile.
“A lot of people have math anxiety,” said Taylor, who joined the K12 team in March after years as a math teacher in Indianapolis. “I’d love to take that pressure off of them.”
Step by step, Taylor broke down problems in the training, typically conducted in person but via live webinar for the first time because of COVID-19. From fractions to algebra, Taylor zipped through 95 minutes of dizzying division and preposterous proportions to make it look easy as participants fired off questions in chat.
So much of math is often centered on teaching steps and formulas, which results in “brain overload and you can’t remember the steps,” she said.
Taylor, who started her career as a special education teacher, found that breaking down the steps to show why math works was key.
“They can see how it works in daily life, and they don’t even realize they are doing math,” she said after the training.
Participants learned how much profit a bookstore made with an 8% markup on 100 books that cost them $16, and how to divide three-quarters of leftover pizza among three roommates to make it equal.
“Let’s figure out why it works, and you don’t need to memorize,” Taylor said. “With these young adults and professional adults, it's helping them realize that when you add some context to a problem it starts to make more sense than numbers or calculations.”
Candace Robinson has struggled with the Praxis math training. But the early education teacher from Louisiana needs to pass it for her certification.
“I find the test can be difficult, especially if you are a teacher who graduated awhile back or don’t teach the skills,” she said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
She has taken in-person trainings before, but Wednesday’s webinar made more sense. She easily could follow the logic behind all the formulas on her screen.
“If I was taking the test now, I think I could pass,” she said.
Many participants haven’t taken a standardized test in a long time, said Carol Lippert, Executive Director of K12 Outreach and Education Program Development, and the math test is often one of the most difficult.
The training, with another session on Tuesday, included test guide links and tips and tricks to quickly do the problems. One key is going through all the questions you easily can answer first, then working backward.
“The nice thing is we could accommodate a lot more people in the online setting,” Lippert said. “Why it’s important is there is a nationwide teacher shortage. GCU is interested in doing anything we can to support that need. This is one piece of that puzzle.”
Speaking of puzzles …
The answer is 19.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.