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
To teach her students how to tell time, Deborah Nichols uses a table, coins, and tape. “As we begin the lesson, students only see that we are laying coins on a table. However, as the activity goes on, an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment occurs and they begin to make connections between our coin table and an analog clock,” she said. Nichols relies on curriculum goals and objectives, as well as her students, to guide her mathematics planning and teaching. “I am not directed by a scripted lesson plan. How and what I teach is determined by my students’ eyes and efforts, which allow me to see their understanding.”
In class, students work together and use mathematical language and materials to help understand what they are learning. They are encouraged to follow the motto, ‘Use what you know to figure out what you don’t know,’ because starting with something familiar gives students the confidence to continue working until they have solved the problem.