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THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Jeff Heyck-Williams is a real wizard at teaching math

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Education,People,Taylor Holland,3-Minute Interview

Heyck-Williams is an instructional guide at Two Rivers Public Charter School in Northeast Washington. To help improve dwindling math scores, he started dressing up as a wizard to make the subject more fun for students. Students' grades have climbed since the wizard was introduced.

What about math interests you? I've always loved math. I've been teaching for the last 15 years, and I transitioned into an administrative role nine years ago. Four years ago, we needed another math teacher, and I simultaneously noticed a disturbing trend that our math scores were trailing our literacy scores. I knew we had to do something to address this.

You decided to implement something new? It's important for kids to be able to solve open-ended math problems that have multiple solutions, and I wanted them to do it in a way that was fun. I wanted to present them with an opportunity to work on these kinds of problems and learn that just because they may have solved it in different ways doesn't mean it's wrong.

So what did you do? I became the mathemagical wizard. I dress up in a wizard costume -- I have a beard and a robe and a hat -- and go to our assemblies where the kids all introduce me as the wizard every week. The wizard appears and presents a problem they'd worked on during the last week and a solution, calling out the names of those who got it right. We try to get everyone involved -- custodians, teachers, the front desk -- and encourage families to work on the problem together.

What does this do for the students? It shows them that math is fun and changes their attitude towards math. They start to see problem-solving can be fun and learn perseverance around problem-solving. The problems are typically pretty challenging ... It teaches that you really can't take a single problem for granted.

- Taylor Holland

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner