After struggling in math for several years, teacher and former journalist Jonathan Burton knows what it’s like to feel confused by the subject.
That’s why when he heard Dr. Frank Wang speak at a conference earlier this summer, he really connected with the topic.
“Doctor Wang was deemed unteachable when he was in grade school and was a very marginal student,” Burton said. “I struggled as a kid so I could really relate to him.”
Oddly enough, today Burton is a math teacher at Skyridge Middle School, and Wang holds a PhD in mathematics from Massachuttes Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
After hearing Wang speak, Burton asked him to come to Camas and talk to students about how he beat the odds and became a math success story.
“His story is inspirational to me,” Burton said. “He owned a successful publishing company for several years but then wanted to go back into the classroom so he could help kids.”
One of Wang’s trademarks is using humor in his presentations, which keeps the audience engaged during what many consider to be a bit of a dry subject.
“He makes it really fun, and that’s something I can relate to,” Burton said. “I want kids to walk into my classroom and have fun. Typically, they don’t like to share at first, but as we begin to build a community, they become more confident to talk about their thinking.”
Wang will do two presentations on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The first will be just for students at Skyridge, with a public event held at Camas High School, 26900 S.E. 15th St., from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The event is free.
His presentation will be on “Beauty in Mathematics,” where he will use humor, riddles and concrete demonstrations to show the higher purpose of mathematics: To seek and find structure and order in apparent chaos and disorder.
“It is commonly accepted in our culture to say, ‘I’m not good at math,’ and students’ parents will accept that,” Burton said.
“But if someone said, ‘I’m not good at reading,” there would be uproar. I’m hoping we can start to change that perspective with the presentations here.”
Burton added that Wang shares the idea that being successful in math is more about hard work than inherent ability.
“That perspective (working hard) is common in countries with a high degree of success in math,” Burton said. “Many of us have difficult, demanding jobs, but if they are fun, humorous and entertaining, we look forward to the work. It’s the same idea with math.”
For more information about Dr. Frank Wang, browse www.wangeducation.com.