DeSoto High School AP Teacher Helps Students Make Math Meaningful

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Brian Beck Smith
Brian Beck-Smith Photo Courtesy DeSoto ISD

Math Is Easier With The Help of Brian Beck-Smith

DESOTO– DeSoto High School (DHS) Advanced Placement Calculus teacher Brian Beck-Smith is one of the many district teachers committed to ensuring a successful outcome for students and enjoys seeing them learn about one of his favorite topics, mathematics.
“Math is my life! I love math, I love teaching it and making sure that others can get the same knowledge that I have. So, teaching calculus is just like teaching another math course.” said a passionate Beck-Smith who was inspired to become a teacher while tutoring at the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a computer science degree.

“I saw a shift in math skills and noticed an influx of students being admitted into college with signs of math deficiencies and many of them were taking college algebra and developmental math courses,” said Beck-Smith. “I could not pinpoint it.”

This observation fueled Beck-Smith’s continuation to work as a full-time math and computer science tutor for the university and other learning programs which subsequently opened the door to his teaching career more than 12 years ago. Today, he is in his fourth year of teaching Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus AB, BC and, Pre-AP PreCalculus courses to DHS 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students in an accelerated math program and is constantly refining his craft to enhance student academic growth.

Approaching A Difficult Subject From A Different Perspective

“Many students come to me already defeated saying they are not good at math and it is impossible to pass this class. Many want to give up, but I tell them to look at math from a different perspective and it may not be as hard as you think,” shared Beck Smith. “I also let students know that I had to sit in their seat and learn too and if I can get it, they can too.”

Recently, he started helping students explore course topics and make connections with math concepts before beginning instruction.

“Instead of just jumping right in and asking them to remember formulas, I allow students to reach in and apply prior knowledge so that they can remember concepts in a way that is meaningful for them,” said Beck-Smith.

Beck-Smith also shared that after five or six weeks in the course, most students see the value of the lessons and understand the investment necessary to ensure success in college.

While he has seen positive student growth throughout the years, Beck-Smith has seen his student achievement and growth rate double over the past year with regards to the AP exams. Additionally, Beck-Smith shared that his former students contacted him to share how the lessons he taught prepared them for college.

A Love For Math, A Passion For Teaching It

While Beck-Smith loves math, he realized that his work as an advanced placement teacher helps students prepare for overall college success too.

“In addition to truly preparing students for success on the AP exam and in collegiate math, Advanced Placement courses also instill study habits, study skills, and a mindset so that when they go to college it will not be as challenging. They will be more competitive and prepared for the experience,” said Beck-Smith.

Some other steps that Mr. Beck-Smith has taken to ensure student success is to create a learning environment where students feel safe to share and receive feedback and the art of forming and facilitating study sessions.

For the last three years, while preparing DeSoto High School students for college, Mr. Beck-Smith has also helped to mold aspiring educators in his role as an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas.

“I encourage them to not just teach the way they learned, but to be sure that they understand the concepts and can engage in dialogue. Also, to use grade-appropriate strategies remembering that there are different learning abilities as well as different teaching styles.”

DeSoto ISD offers several advanced placement courses for secondary students to gain a strong foundation for postsecondary success. Learn more at www.desotoisd.org.

Brian Beck Smith
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