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Creator of mathematical movements shared her experience with VON
Do Not Always Listen to Your Teacher

By Pinar Istek

 

When Mr. Olsener sat back, throwing up his arms and said “You will never amount to anything in math,” Suzy Koontz didn’t want to believe her high school math teacher. Koontz described herself as one of the poorest students in math in her classroom. Today as a mathematician, Koontz, 48, from New York, is also an author of six books on math, an education consultant and a mother of four daughters. Even while on vacation in Nosara, Koontz is still working on her new books and projects.

Generally, most of us have the tendency to pay attention to what we are told in school by our teachers and professors. Sometimes it might be a good idea to benefit from the experienced ones, yet swimming against the tide can also be an option to succeed in life.
A simple thought that society has, brought Koontz to where she is today. She said “We never say  ‘Oh! They are so good at math and they are stupid’. Generally we believe that if someone is good at math they are smart.”

Since she already had a great interest in math, from then on she decided to be good at it. “Because that would make me smart,” she said.

Not listening to her high school teacher and continuing to work hard, took Suzy Koontz to a Master’s degree in statistics after majoring in math as a college student. Her determination never stopped growing and continued to get even stronger in her life.


She didn’t want other students to experience the same difficulties she did in studying math. This motivation kept her working on finding simplified ways to learn math.


   
 
   
 

She compared math to a foreign language and said “It may be hard initially but it may not always stay hard.  Just like learning a language, you feel like dying initially trying to figure it out. But it comes to you eventually.”

Raising her children shifted her focus towards math for children and how to teach math to kids at a young age. Koontz thought math should be taught to kids at a younger age when they are more receptive.

“I decided to try to make it fun for my kids. And if I could make it fun for my kids then I could maybe make it fun for other kids. So I tried lots of things and they were very clear with me when it wasn’t fun. ‘Mom this is not fun’, ” she said.

She started to think about kinesthetic learning techniques, which require a student to be involved with a physical activity to learn something, with the idea of making math fun for kids. “We really don’t have to have everyone sitting still and uniformly learning. We really can branch away from that,” Koontz said. An experienced writer on simplifying complicated topics, she came up with her third book called Multiply With Me: Learning to Multiply Can Be Fun, which was also the emergence of Math and Movement, a program that Koontz developed to teach kids math, using kinesthetic learning techniques along with colorful mats. 

After a successful pilot study, today Math and Movement is implemented in schools in the Ithaca, New York area. However the goal is to spread this new idea to the entire United States.
In addition to her new book ideas, she is working
towards starting an NGO called Math For Everyone.

As her 19, 16, 13 and 9 year-old daughters filled the room watching their mom with curiosity and admiration, Koontz said “Women can have it all but it is over a lifetime.”
Determination and trust in herself brought success to Koontz. Being the maverick might not be for everyone, but it is definitely an option.

 

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