Matthew "Matt" Smith is a mathematics teacher in the FSDB Deaf Middle School. His classroom leaves no doubt as to his specialty area—a variety of math posters, diagrams, formulas, and phrases cover the walls, including Why Study Algebra? and Why Study Math? These are on the walls for excellent reasons, intended to spark student interest and curiosity!
A history buff, Smith's bulletin board includes a set of placards on famous mathematicians of the past, such as Isaac Newton. Smith posts his grading policy clearly for students to see and keep in mind. He moves fluidly between students, assisting and scaffolding expertly.
What made you choose teaching for a career?
My original dream was to work at NASA. When I took Astronomy 101 at the University of Georgia, it was a struggle to keep up with the course requirements. I also realized how many science classes I would have to take to complete an Aerospace Engineering degree, and science wasn't my favorite subject growing up. I changed my major to mathematics, as it was comfortable for me to handle. My college advisor asked what my second dream was, and my response was to be a sports coach. The advisor said, "why not become a math teacher?" and the rest was set in stone.
What made you specifically choose to teach math?
Believe it or not, history was my personal favorite. Even so, since I was doing well with my college math courses in college, I decided to major in mathematics.
What is one new teaching method or topic you enjoy teaching?
I incorporate math games as part of my instruction because it is much easier to motivate students when they are engaged in problem-solving games as a part of their learning process.
How did you land at FSDB?
It was actually by luck. I never planned on applying for a job at FSDB. I wanted to go somewhere out west or north but couldn't find the right fit. My father said, "what about Florida?" I applied to FSDB and was hired one week later.
What is a unique challenge facing teachers of mathematics, and how do you handle it?
I would say building student confidence in working with and solving math word problems. My approach is to first focus on teaching vocabulary words and concepts, and then introduce word problems at the very end of each unit/module. I have found that this approach works very well with my students.
What are some of your passions & hobbies outside of the classroom?
I love coaching after my regular school hours. I have coached several sports at FSDB—basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, football, and flag football. Not only do I coach sports, but I also love to watch sports and follow my favorite teams (mainly those from Georgia).
Can you share a recent student or teaching success story?
I have mentored several people who have gone to become excellent math teachers themselves. They have become my friends, and we share ideas on strategies for teaching mathematics to our students in mathematics.
In an ideal world, students would come to FSDB ...
Motivated to learn!
By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit www.fsdbk12.org