transformation to motivate them to go for mathematics. You become "gifted" from practicing. Practice assures success. I give you a simple equation and you do it and do it over and over and you store that information.

Try to make a comparison with something you relate to, so that's going to help you. If you say to the mechanic, "I want you to check the carburetor or change the tire," the first thing he is going to do is look for the tools. If he doesn't have his tools, he's not going to be able to do it. That's what mathematics is.

Any problem you have, you're going to find a formula, what equation you're going to use, and you're going to have to think. And that's what I'm teaching is how to use those tools.

Ganas is where the motivation begins. Ganas is where you get the energy to be able to play defense. I want you to get a big picture, a crystal picture. You get a good picture, you're going to be able to do it. If you don't get a good picture, then forget it, because you're not going to be able to do it.

GT: If ganas is all the student needs, then what does the teacher need?

Escalante: To be able to teach, you need three things. Number one is the knowledge of the subject. You have to have the domain of what you're going to teach. I'm not going to be able to teach biology. I'm not going to be able to do it, because I don't know too much about it. I have to have the blueprint in my head to follow.

The second thing is I have to motivate the concept I'm going to be teaching. For example, I introduce the concept of illegal defense -- that in mathematics you cannot divide by zero.

So I want this to be clear, and I put a zero denominator and the whole class they shout "Illegal defense!" And I ask them, you're going to have to help me out. If somebody comes and asks "what's illegal defense?" They going to say "You can't divide by zero." With each new concept I have to do exactly the same thing, I have to use some toy or something for the concept itself. So from that you start.

Third, you have to understand human relations. you have to look at the kid as a person. And you respect the kid. And that way, you motivate them. And you develop that gradually over a whole semester or two weeks or three weeks, that good relationship. And if you do that, when you have the feedback from the student, mathematically speaking, then the kid speaks back and you know he is learning.

I use basketball for every concept of mathematics. Three-point shot: parabola. Three-second violation: absolute value, more than, less then or equal to. Rebound, blocking shots: parenthesis, removing exponents, etc. [Story Continues After Sidebar]




It Takes Hard Work to be Gifted

Jaime Escalante

When you separate kids, you discriminate. I do not agree with the "gifted" where you put kids together in a special program, what they call honor classes. I didn't know they had that. Accidentally I discovered that. One kid came to me and said "I don't want to sit next to him."


"He's gifted"

"What do you mean by that?"

"He's better than me, I'm not gifted."

So I went to the principal and asked him "What's this deal with the gifted?" and I found out

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government