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Finding Mathematics in All the Right Places

In our previous post, we mentioned how fortunate we felt to have assembled a dream team of mathematics and science educators to travel to Guatemala with us. The dream continues with this installment. Board member Linda Gojak, whose extensive resume includes the presidency of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, shared her expertise in a visit to Costa Rica and Guatemala with T2T staff member Becky Adams. Here are some of Becky’s reflections….

Master mathematician Linda Gojak tackles the coffee-bean challenge

On our second day of visiting several wonderfully unique schools in San Ramón, Costa Rica, our foursome (including Dustin Dresser of Costa Rica Frika) sat down in a German bistro in the city center.  While waiting for our decadent, coffee-flavored milkshakes to arrive, we noticed that the table top was filled with loose coffee beans underneath a sheet of glass. Typical of T2T educators, our conversation about the beans quickly turned into a mathematics estimation problem!

Bean There, Done That

For the next half hour, we became proverbial bean-counters, extrapolating the numbers we generated and arguing about the depth of the inset portion of the table that housed the beans. Although we never came to a final conclusion about the total number, our devoted crew demonstrated that T2T’s goal of making cultural connections works in every country!

Coffee milkshake deliciousness in Costa Rica

Our conversations about mathematic education continued throughout our visit as we visited five very different schools, each with its own approach to learning. What all these schools had in common was intense pride in their students and communities. Our favorite highlights included an elementary school housed in a stunning historic building in downtown San Ramón and an agricultural high school that produced its own phenomenally delicious ice cream.

We were able to keep busy because of the hospitality of T2T friends Tina and Carlos Sandi, who provided a home away from home. Their warm family and peaceful setting, while commonplace in this country, was a welcome respite from our packed-full days.

Although we would have loved to stay longer in Costa Rica, Linda and I said adios to our newfound friends, giving our host mascot Ruffle the Chihuahua one last pat. Our next destination was waiting for us three countries north on the Pacific coast.

Dream Team Strikes Again

Anybody who has ever traveled with T2T-I to El Paredón, Guatemala, can attest to the instant love created by this community and our local partner organization, La Choza Chula. This trip was no different. Linda and returning presenter Tim Quiroz wasted no time in getting to work with the El Paredón teachers after T2T staff led a fun-filled, early morning team-building session.

oval plate with whole fish, beans, rice

No fish were harmed in the writing of this blog

By the end of the day, Linda and Tim had helped the local teachers discover new mathematics teaching strategies and inspiration. A guiding principle of every T2T seminar is that the presenters and local teachers arrive at education solutions together. So, even though Linda and Tim may have had more training in pedagogy, their goal is to empower the local teachers to engage their students.

Day two gave the teachers time to plan lessons implementing these ideas with Linda and Tim’s support. The seminar culminated with an enthusiastic discussion about how the teachers were building engaged, empowered learners in their classrooms.

Finally, with affectionate hugs and promises to return, the T2T team headed back to home base, but not without stopping first for a fabulous meal of fish and rice from a renowned nearby restaurant. Since our table didn’t display coffee beans, we counted our blessings instead.

In El Paredón, La Choza Chula teachers show their certificates, with Tim Quiroz (second from left), Linda Gojak (fourth from left), T2T staff members Lucía Dávila (middle, standing) and Becky Adams (far right)


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