Math is more than just numbers to Ms. Baljee, our grade 5 and 6 Pre-Algebra and grade 4 Math & Science Subject Expert Teacher. She sees math as a way to explore nature, logic, and the world. Through her interactive lessons, she introduces students to thinking about math through these lenses. And based on the smiles ever-present in her classroom, students love it as much as she does!
We sat down with Ms. Baljee to learn more about why it’s important to know math is more than arithmetic, the benefits of hands-on activities in the classroom, and her love of dance. Read her full bio here.
What do you enjoy most about teaching math?
Each time I hear someone say, “Do the math,” I grit my teeth. Invariably a reference to something mundane like addition or multiplication, the phrase reinforces how little awareness there is about scope of the subject. Many people identify mathematics with just one element: arithmetic.
As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else—ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is the way infinity is harnessed to deal with the finite; the way nature expresses the Fibonacci series. This subject never ceases to amaze. Math deserves to be enjoyed for its own sake.
This is a subject which has the scope of using all the eight multiple intelligences. I firmly believe that not all students learn in the same way, and hence, it is only appropriate to teach them in a way that benefits the students individually. This includes presenting lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, and field trips, among others, which are harmonious with each child’s unique mindset.
What I like best about teaching this subject is the possibility of the extensive use of manipulatives, jigsaw puzzles, mazes, board games, and much more, to enable the students to develop their logical skills. Dealing with a worksheet of 20 questions isn’t as much fun as solving a jigsaw puzzle with 30 questions. It’s even better to be playing a game with your friends and beating them to it.
What’s your favorite topic to teach and why?
Proving geometrical theorems has always been my favorite topic. I love it because it of the logical thinking and reasoning involved in it. Though I do not teach this topic here at BASIS Independent McLean, I still try to teach students how to use reasoning and logical thinking to derive various formulae. I am not in favor of learning formulae by rote.
What’s a favorite project that your students enjoy?
I love giving the students a recipe for two and ask them to cook for a different number of people. They use cooking to understand measurements and hopefully have fun at the same time.
What’s the best part about teaching primary and middle school students?
The best part of teaching this age group is the love, adoration, and respect that I earn from these kiddos. It is important to have a positive influence on these kids.
What makes BASIS Independent McLean a unique school?
The BASIS Curriculum is groundbreaking curriculum that drives learning outside the walls of classrooms and even schools entirely. The philosophy of teaching has been re-conceptualized by creating inspiring learning environments in unexpected places and by using architectural design to guide learning.
Outside of teaching, what do you enjoy doing?
I am very passionate about dancing. I have been trained in Bharatanatyam, which is one for the famous classical dances of India. I can always “dance my worries” away!
Thank you for speaking with us, Ms. Baljee! We love having subject experts in our classrooms that are so passionate about their discipline. Ms. Baljee is also sharing her dancing talents with students too: in honor of Holi, she taught interested grade 4 students a classical Indian dance.