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Math Education Alumnus Becomes Utah Valley Educator of the Week

Photo by Alyssa Lyman

The Daily Herald named BYU Mathematics Education alumnus Stephen Scott the Utah Valley Educator of the Week on September 21, 2016.  An anonymous faculty member at Provo High School nominated him for this recognition.

Scott, who received a Mathematics Education bachelor’s degree in 2013, said he felt very honored when he found out The Daily Herald picked him as Utah Valley Educator of the Week.

“It kind of caught me by surprise,” Scott said. “I was just honored that someone would recognize me in that way.”

The Daily Herald article wrote that it awarded the Provo High School math teacher this recognition because of his desire to help everyone around him, including his students, other faculty, and students in other classes.

Growing up, Scott wanted to become a teacher and a baseball coach. He chose to pursue a career in teaching math because it was his best subject in school. He grew to love math education as he attended BYU for his undergraduate degree. Currently, he is working on earning his master’s degree in Mathematics Education. One of his interests is trying to improve the transitioning of student knowledge and skills between math and the other STEM fields.

“I’m more of an applied mathematician. I want my students to see not just the beauty of mathematics but also the meaningfulness of math,” Scott said.

Scott’s goal is to help his students develop reasoning, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. The way he aims to do that is through student-centered learning where students play a greater role in learning the curriculum.

“I use task-based activities where students are eliciting the mathematics themselves. They’re interpreting it; they’re exploring it. They’re coming to understand for themselves what this means rather than me telling them, ‘Hey, this is how it is,’” said Scott.

One example of Scott doing this is when he shows his students a Dr. Pepper bottle that has incorrectly labeled the ratio of calories to fluid ounces. Scott then asks them what should be the amount of calories in the bottle. The students come up with how many calories are in the bottle and discuss ways to represent the relationship in a table, a graph, and as an equation.  This activity is done before ideas of proportionality and rates have been explicitly taught in the class.  Thus, students are constructing for themselves the meaning of a continuous linear function.

Scott’s experience in the BYU Mathematics Education program and his time as a volunteer missionary for the LDS Church inspired his quest to seek innovative, student-focused teaching methods. He explained how the LDS Church trained missionaries to base their religious lessons on people’s needs and make the lessons a two-way conversation rather than a one-way lecture. He said he thought this type of student-centered teaching could also be used to teach academia in schools.

“I want teachers to be more reflective of what we want our students to really learn and how we can engage them in a manner that invites them to become critical thinkers for themselves,” Scott said.