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Inspiring Students With the Magical Wonders of Math

Posted 11/03/2023 by Ben Scherer

Mr. Strickland teaching a group of his 3rd period AP Calculus AB class. photo by Merry Shukert

One TJ teacher has ventured back into the world of AP Calculus after years of teaching other courses.

Brock Strickland, who is a well-known and well-loved teacher has been teaching TJ mathematics for four years. For the past few years, he has been focusing on teaching other classes. However, he is back teaching AP Calculus AB this year after a seven-year break and is absolutely loving it. Though he does love the content of the course, he especially enjoys the group of students in the classroom and hopes that they gain something valuable from having him as a teacher. 

Strickland got his undergraduate degree from Towson University in Psychology before going on to get his master’s degree in secondary Math Education from Western Governors University. Before becoming a teacher, Strickland coached swimming, worked at a school for kids with severe emotional and behavioral disorders, and also worked at a family-owned Italian restaurant as a server. In his high school years, he was employed as a lifeguard and at Blockbuster. In his mid-20s, he began his career as a high school teacher and never looked back.

Before becoming a full-time teacher, Strickland often taught as a substitute which allowed him to realize his true calling. While subbing, one math teacher even asked Strickland to teach his algebra class for a week while he was gone. Before that week, Strickland hadn’t yet realized that he liked to teach math. He thought teaching was boring and only made sure that students weren’t doing anything they weren’t supposed to while subbing. But after teaching the math class for a week, he knew that there was no other career path that he could take. Now, he is teaching Integrated Math 1 Honors and AP Calculus AB. 

Strickland maximizes learning by making the content accessible and relatable for his students. One metaphor that he utilized in class in order to explain the Intermediate Value Theorem was hiking on the Colorado trail. He says, “hiking on a Colorado trail and what elevations a person must attain while hiking each based on the minimum and maximum elevation”. He works hard to ensure that students have the best chance at understanding more abstract concepts and also tries to incorporate a little humor and silliness into his lessons. “We don’t have to take everything so seriously – it’s just calculus,” said Strickland. “It’s just math. It doesn’t have to be high stakes, and everything doesn’t need to be prim, proper, and perfect.” 

Strickland’s favorite thing about his job is the people, like his colleagues. “The math team at TJ is a fun collection of diverse personalities and a positive group dynamic,” he said. The students are another of Strickland’s favorite things about his job. He explained that the trust that the students have in the teacher makes the job so much more meaningful. He wants students to find value in simply trying. “If they reach the standard, high five. If they don’t, high five,” said Strickland, emphasizing the importance that resides in students just giving math a try. He also loves the community here, which includes the staff, faculty, and administration. 

Strickland believes Math is important because it’s about problem-solving. “Almost everything in the real world is problem solving,” Strickland explained. Understanding diverse strategies and employing them in different contexts helps people learn new strategies as well as how to apply them in their personal lives. In simple terms, math is important because it helps students become better problem solvers and math helps students think in different ways.

Strickland is a strong believer in the eight-point rubric grading system. He believes that it is a great way for students to show what they know while also ensuring that those who are behind don’t get left in the dust. In addition, the rubric he uses grades students based on what they truly do know – getting a B+ only demonstrates that they know how to do the math, whereas students that receive A’s understand the difference between a correct and incorrect solution path.

In his free time, Strickland likes to hang out with his friends and talk about the world. He also loves to hang out with his family which includes his wife, his dog named Hurley and his cat named Olive. He also likes to explore the world of cooking with new recipes, foods and more. He also listens to podcasts, reads, and goes on Reddit. 

 “Everyone is a math person,” is a belief that Strickland lives by. He hopes to inspire TJ students to expand their views of themselves and to explore math not as something to be afraid of, but as something to love. Math, even calculus, is applicable in every aspect of life. “If calculus is the mathematics of motion and summation, everything can be described as a rate or a sum,” said Strickland, emphasizing the prevalence of math in today’s world and giving students a reason to think on a larger scale than the classroom. He plans to continue teaching at TJ for many more years and hopes to make a positive impact on those who sit in his class.