Dr. Lorraine M. Baron
Prof. of Mathematics & Sciences Education
University of British Columbia – Okanagan
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My mother inspired me to pursue the joy of mathematics at an early age. She just “knew” that I would be good at it. My mother taught me the importance of doing well in school, and she always has had a strong appreciation for post-secondary education.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Recently, I was able to work with another secondary school teacher and his class of 11th grade pre-calculus students. The best part was that we discarded all of our preconceived notions of what high school mathematics class looked like, and we designed unconventional tasks (about quadratic functions this time) that students could try in groups.
We gave the students time to make sense of the mathematical ideas, and the knowledge that the students created was astounding. We guided them of course, but they learned it and built the ideas on their own, and then, they taught it to each other. It was very powerful, and the students felt that they had understood the mathematical concepts.
Role models and heroes:
Teachers: They work hard every day with our children. My mother and grandmother, my husband (John Grodzki), my current Dean of Education who was also my theory professor (Dr. B Lynn Bosetti), my own high school chemistry teacher (Dieter Stamm), my high school mathematics teacher who has passed away (Wilf Loch), and my mathematics teaching methods professor who very sadly passed last year (Dr. Walter Szetela).
Advice for future STEMinists?
Tell your children they CAN do mathematics and sciences – all of them. Please cringe when a news reporter, or TV show, or just a conversationalist laughs at being poor in mathematics. It is not OK to be poor at mathematics, just as it is not OK to be a poor reader. As soon as we think it is fine to laugh at lacking mathematical skills, we are excusing our children from working hard. We are allowing them to give up if they choose to.
If you knew me, you would know that I appreciate a good laugh, and that I take things very lightly, but this is one thing that we cannot do any more to our future generations. That is…we cannot allow them to think that it is acceptable if they cannot do mathematics (or sciences). Our future as a planet does depend on supporting mathematics and sciences learning.