Teacher uses creative ways to engage middle schoolers with math

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Seventh graders at Trask Middle School in Wilmington use math VersaTiles to solve equations.

“I think they like working with their hands. It’s like a little movement break in between every problem,” said Amber Adams who teaches math at the New Hanover County School.
A teacher for eight years, Adams says its just one way she tries to keep learning about math fun.

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Ironically, the person who inspired Adams to teach was her seventh-grade math teacher Karen Cassano.

“I had to get up in front of my kids, my peers, and do a 10-minute mini lesson on angles and she wrote at the bottom of my rubric, I think you should go into teaching when you get older,” Adams recalled. “For a teacher to say that to a seventh grader, it was so profound. I turned out being a seventh-grade math teacher.”

When we visited the school, Adams was holding an ‘auction day’ for her students where they get to bid using fake money on an assortment of cool prizes she purchased.



“Its just a motivating thing for the students. You saw how engaged they were in just that 10-minute auction we had, to spend $10 to $20 dollars every month just to get them that motivated about being in my classroom, they earned it,” she said. “They work hard in my class, so they deserve something like that.”

For a subject that can be challenging for many students, keeping them on track with each lession is important.

“If you don’t have that engagement, they’re just not going to connect with the work they’re doing in those classes,” said Scott Andersen, an assistant principal at the school. “I think she’s a remarkable teacher because she’s innovative, she plans, she works hard, she understands her students and their needs and she works hard to meet those needs every single day here at Trask Middle School.”

The reason we picked Adams is because a parent of one of Adams’ students sent us a nomination. She told us how thrilled she was to receive a handwritten notecard about her daughter from Adams.

“There’s something to be said about an old-school, snail-mail postcard as opposed to an email or text that I also think are a real important thing,” Adams said.

Each week, she picks a student from every class period and sends a note to their parents.

“I think the first time a teacher contacts home shouldn’t be for something negative. It should be for something positive the student is doing in the classroom,” she said. “It could be they did a really good job on a test or they’re just doing really well in class or they helped a friend, just to let the parents know I’m seeing awesome things from them.”

Adams said a big part of teaching involves building relationships with students and parents.

“I try to keep the lines of communication open at all time because I think its important for parents to know how their students are doing in school,” she said.

On behalf of WWAY and Mattress and Furniture Liquidators we would like to congratulate Amber Adams as our ‘Teacher of the Week.’

“This is a really big surprise. I’m super excited,” she said. “I’m very honored, very thankful. This is huge.”

As for the $100 gift card we presented her, Adams plans to use it to buy more things for her auction at the end of the school year to reward students for earning good grades.

“At the end of the day, I just want my students to like being in my classroom, learning about math. I want them to leave at the end of the school year enjoying math and not being one of those really difficult subject areas,” she said.