Matt Hardy started out studying chemical engineering at the University of Iowa but soon found out coaching and teaching was what he really wanted to do. He transferred to Wartburg College and graduated with a degree in math education.
“I got bored with it. I didn’t enjoy the course work,” Hardy says. “One of the main reasons I moved to teaching is to coach.”
Hardy teaches algebra I and trigonometry in high school, and principals of engineering for high school students at Des Moines Area Community College, where the students receive college credit.
Hardy works hard to help his students learn the math they need to succeed. Most of the students in his algebra I class are freshman.
“Sometimes they don’t realize how much work it takes,” he says.
Hardy gives the students examples and encourages them to come in for one-on-one help. In fact, he would someday like to implement what he calls a “flipped classroom.” With a flipped classroom, the instruction takes place at home, with teacher-created videos or online videos. Then, when students are in the classroom, they can ask questions and get the individual assistance they may need.
Every student has access to a laptop in his math classes. The goal is to someday be a paperless school, Hardy explained, adding that paperless classrooms are much more cost effective.
A troubling trend Hardy has experienced is seeing more of his algebra I students struggling with basic math facts, which can lead to problems as they move into other math classes.
“A lot of equations look overwhelming. Some students don’t try particularly hard at their work, and others do,” he says. “There seems to be a learned helplessness in some students.”
Hardy says he teaches through a questioning method, but that some students “just want you to tell them the answer. Every kid is different.”
But he also sees a math program implemented a few years ago at the elementary level called everyday math beginning to have an effect on math learning in the district.
“The program is helping kids develop a more well-rounded ability with math, and I am seeing a difference,” he says.