Florence Harper

K-6 Mathematics

Oxon Hill, MD

2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching

Each year the President of the U.S. recognizes outstanding K-12 science
and math teachers throughout the country. One math and one science
educator is chosen from each state who exemplifies deep content
knowledge combined with the ability to motivate students in science and
math.

Florence Harper uses a game called Counting Down to Zero, to teach her kindergarten students to subtract. “We start with a given number of small candies, like M&M’s, and then count down by eating one at a time until there are none left,” said Harper. She describes her teaching style as, “firm, but fun,” and says that if students do not understand a concept, she will not move on to the next concept. Instead, Harper goes back and reteaches it in a different way.

It is important that students see the connections between mathematics and their daily lives, so I constantly talk about how many times a day they see or use some form of math. For example, the alarm clock waking them in the morning, buying a school lunch, getting to class on time, and reading the speedometer in their parents’ car. My students are much less intimidated by mathematics when they realize they use several methods of math before they even come to class.