Women in Math and Science

Courtney Reichert '06

Courtnet Reichert

Courtney Reichert '06

Majors: Math and German
Minor: Education
Hometown: Bowdoinham, ME

When did you know that you wanted to concentrate in math, German, and education?
Iíve always liked math and participated in math related activities. For example, I was part of the Math Team from 6th grade through high school. So when I applied to college, math was always my main interest. I took math classes at Bowdoin and enjoyed them and also really liked the professors in the Math Department.

I had never taken German before and by chance took a German course when I was a first-year. I loved it, kept going, went to Germany last semester and continued there.

Iíve been interested in math education for a long time. In school, I was one of those few students who actually enjoyed math. As a teacher, I hope to tackle the problem of getting students to enjoy math. Itís always hard to do; they donít find it relevant. They have a When am I ever going to use this again? I donít like this type of attitude, so my goal as a math teacher is to make math relevant and enjoyable.

A lot of people think that math is a boring and static field. What about it do you find exciting?
A lot of math is static; 2 + 2 = 4 but after taking upper level math classes, I now know the foundation and theories behind what Iíd previously studied. To be honest, I get frustrated with math, just like everybody else. Itís hard; both the theoretical and the analysis of math are hard. But the rewarding part is when you finally get a problem right and understand it.

Also, outside of the classroom, we do use math every day and math is everywhere around us. The fun part is finding these examples and saying, ďHey, I do use this!Ē

What is it like studying math at Bowdoin?
I really have enjoyed taking math at Bowdoin. Because it is a liberal arts school, thereís the opportunity to have a broader focus. We are encouraged to concentrate in a specific topic area, and my technical concentration is Geometry. But, Iíve tried to take a variety of courses in different areas to get a more general sense of higher mathematics. I can take a variety of different kinds of math: applied math, theoretical math, and analysis of math. Iíve taken several courses that complemented my interests in education, such as Intro to Analysis, which allows students to look deeper into the foundations of math topics that are taught in high schools, such as calculus. This course answered the question Where does it all come from?, which I think is an essential background to have as a potential math teacher. My current course, Intro to Algebraic Structures (Abstract Algebra) is also very helpful and looks at the overarching concepts and themes behind algebra and its structures. This is a key set of skills and knowledge for an algebra teacher to have! So, at Bowdoin, I have gotten a wider view of mathematics by having this very broad math major and taking a little bit of everything.

Do you participate in any math activities outside of the classroom?
I do a lot of extracurricular math work. I lead study groups and grade for the Math Department, and I tutor college and high school students. Next semester, I will be student teaching pre-calculus to 11th graders at Brunswick High School.

What does the student teaching program involve?
During the spring semester of senior year, Bowdoin students with an education minor have the opportunity to student teach. It is a full time commitment, every day in school from 7 a.m. to 3p.m. working with a co-op teacher in your field. This semester Iím taking two education courses that prepare us for student teaching. Iím in the school observing math classes, getting ideas for curricular instruction.

Weíre also thinking about current education controversies. Next week Iím presenting a project on the ďMath Wars,Ē as they are called. This debate is going on right now, although its roots stem from the long-debated, and still controversial, purpose of schooling. Basically, the controversy centers on whether students should be taught the basic skills of math or whether they should be taught to critically think and problem solve in areas of math. The easy answer is that both need to be achieved through math curricula, but unfortunately achieving the correct balance is not that easy, and so the ďMath WarsĒ continue.

What do you for fun?
Iím in the band. I did intramural sports, such as field hockey and lacrosse. Theyíre fun and they are less stress because itís more relaxed and itís not a big deal if you canít make a game. Iím learning how to ski, so that is my big project for the winter. Iím busy right now with school, but I also like to relax at home when I can find extra time.

Finally, what do you enjoy about being at Bowdoin?
I'm originally from Bowdoinham, so as a high school student I wasn't interested in attending Bowdoin because of its close proximity to my home! But as time passed and I looked at other colleges, I realized that Bowdoin was indeed the place I wanted to go. The reasons I decided to come, are still the reasons I love being here at Bowdoin.

It's a beautiful campus with lots going on and lots of opportunities. I've become very involved with tutoring high school students (which I love!) and in the math department leading study groups, grading, etc. Up until last year, when it temporarily closed for renovation, I worked at the Art museum and ended up learning a lot about art and art history, something I wouldnít have been able to do through the classes I have taken. I play in the band and have fun being with friends and watching student performances and sports events. I keep myself pretty busy but I enjoy all my time here in the Bowdoin bubble. Getting to know students and professors has definitely been my favorite part about being here and so as a result, it's the community here that I'll miss the most.

Story posted on March 09, 2006

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