“You do not study mathematics because it helps you build a bridge. You study mathematics because it is the poetry of the universe.”
Making Math make sense to students is what helps them to perform better. As I’m in the halls with my scholars, I ask them about their grades. They always cringe when they get to Math. I ask them “Is Math really that hard to learn?” I always get various responses from them about their struggles with the subject. However, our 8th grade scholars are confident in their skills! Math can be a challenge for many scholars but our 8th graders are making strides in the subject area because of their teacher. I had a conversation with 8th Grade Math Teacher at Latin College Prep about the importance teaching math in way that is relevant to way our children learn it. Check out what he has to say!
About De’Markius Lamar, LCP 8th Grade Math Teacher
De`Markius Lamar is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Atlanta Public Schools, graduating from Benjamin E. Mays High School in 2008. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University in middle grades education, a primary focus on mathematics and a secondary focus on social science. He also has a Master’s degree in middle grades Math and Science.
Mr. Lamar began his teaching career in 2012 in Valdosta, Georgia, where he served as an 8th grade math teacher, a 6th – 8th grade math remediation teacher, an AVID elective teacher and coordinator, a boys basketball coach, and a head boys and girls track and field coach. Mr. Lamar served two-year on the leadership team, was the team leader for his hallway for 3 years, and was named Teacher of the Year for the 2016-17 school year. Mr. Lamar is a father to two-year-old Dominic Lamar and is ready to give back to the city that has given so much to him!
ProfessorJBA: Before we get into conversation about Math, what’s the best football team?
Mr. Lamar: The best can always be argued but my favorite team is the Atlanta Falcons.
ProfessorJBA: Of course, ATL all day! Let’s get into why Math matters.
ProfessorJBA: What led you to education and teaching Math?
Mr. Lamar: Education is something that I’ve been doing since I was a teenager. I used to work at a Boys Scouts camp teaching the younger kids scouts skills. Teaching others is something that I’ve always been interested in doing. Teaching math was just a no-brainer. I knew in 4th grade that whatever I did in life had to have math involved. I just truly love the subject.
ProfessorJBA: What are the challenges you see in teaching Math?
Mr. Lamar: The main challenge in teaching math is getting the students to see the relevance and the validity in it. I struggle with the same question: “When am I ever going to use this in life?” I try to show them how everything we do in class will potentially help guide and steer their lives in whatever direction they want to go. I also instill in them the value of being able to compete with children from all over the world.
ProfessorJBA: Would you say there are significant differences in teaching black and brown children math?
Mr. Lamar: I’ve taught children from all races. I must say that there aren’t any major differences in teaching them. It’s all about how you teach them. I say that, because at the end of the day, children are children. When given the opportunity and the necessary skills, all children can rise to meet and surpass academic challenges. However, I will say that you must be culturally aware when educating black and brown children. You have to be aware of the fact that some children won’t get to eat when they get home, or won’t get to do their homework because they’re raising their brothers and sisters for example. These are challenges that are most common in black and brown communities, so you must find other alternatives to help best educate those children.
ProfessorJBA: In your opinion, why is Algebra difficult for students to learn? What are some trends you’ve seen in students not grasping the standards?
Mr. Lamar: Algebra is difficult for students who have gaps in their educational journey. They’re missing the basics that are needed for their foundation. It’s nearly impossible for them to succeed at anything further without having the basic foundation needed to apply advance skills. I teach students who cannot add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Imagine me asking them to create equations and graph functions. It might as well be said in Chinese. Those four operations are the building block of math; everything is based upon them and place value. If you can’t do those, then everything that follows will be a struggle.
ProfessorJBA: From your experience, do Black students struggle more in Math than other core subjects? If so, in what ways do other core content areas effect students’ Math performance?
Mr. Lamar: I think students in general struggle more with Math. With all the processes and steps that come with computing accurately, it can become a little intimidating and overwhelming. I have some students who will quit before they even get started. I’ll go sit down with them one-on-one and walk through the steps. I’ll have them say something like, “Oh this is long, but it’s easy.” I try to explain to them that most of Math is like that, but you have to get out of the habit of quitting or giving up before you even start. With that sort of thinking, you lose the race before you even start.
ProfessorJBA: As a Black male educator, in what ways do you believe having a black male teacher increases student achievement?
Mr. Lamar: I believe seeing Black males in education help our children tremendously, especially our male students. A vast majority of our students live in houses and communities where male figures aren’t abundant if present at all. Since we are with our students for roughly seven to eight hours, we act as those surrogate fathers, uncles, etc. We become invested in their lives and their well-being. I believe them seeing us rooting for them and cheering them on makes a major difference in the type of people they become.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.