Noyce | Participant Profiles

Dan Schaben

Dan Schaben

Noyce Master Teaching Fellow

Secondary Mathematics Teacher
Arapahoe High School

Dan has been creating a set of YouTube videos for all of the classes that he teaches. We asked him more about his ventures in classroom technology.

How many years have you been teaching? What subjects do you teach?

I have been teaching in rural communities since 1998. I have taught middle school and high school math. Currently I teach Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, College Algebra at Arapahoe Public School and McCook Community College as dual-credit courses and a College Statistics course through Curtis. I also coach track where I employ mathematics daily. My high jumpers think I am a little crazy.

Please tell me about the mathematical videos you have been creating on YouTube for your students.

I have been toying around with two "orienteering" problems with YouTube, GeoGebraTube, Google Earth, compasses, and an aviation map. The first problem is titled "Find My Location". I have two videos on YouTube. The first on a bus route and I use a set of compass headings in the video. Students must decide where I am located on a Jepsen Aviation map. The other location was out by Chimney Rock in western Nebraska. I just pulled off the side of the road and give compass headings to three locations visible from where I was stopped along the highway. The second problem is titled "Distance between two towers". In this problem I generally take students out to some location where there is a road and two towers. We take measurements with their iPhones or compasses from one location, then drive in a straight line to another location and take the measurements again. With these measurements they must find the distance between the two towers. Modeling this in GeoGebra takes away some of the heavy trigonometry, but makes the problem no less difficult. Modeling the situation is a very difficult skill to master. Nebraska's landscape lends itself well to that type of problem.

The other project I am working on is creating a set of YouTube videos for all of the classes that I teach. Right now I am really concentrating on Statistics because I already teach this course to four locations across the state with a Polycom system mounted in my classroom. The videos cover the bulk of what I want them to learn, this frees up the time I am in the Polycom environment for discussing any problems they are having. I would like to say that everything is roses and sunny days, but as anyone that has taught via distance learning can attest to, there are problems daily. Most of them are matching up schedules. So having videos that can be viewed at any time has helped with this for those that take the time to watch them.

Currently I have about 100 - 400 views a day on 183 videos, and it has been growing at a pretty steady pace since I started broadcasting in 2010. I teach more students online than I teach in my own classrooms. I also have my own website, Searching For Math.

How has your Noyce MTF experience helped you in these tasks?

The main experience that has helped is my connection to teachers across the state. A rural teacher is often isolated, but this program has given me a group of peers that help me on a regular basis. Wendy Smith has been a huge help, and her guidance along with all NOYCE teachers have pushed me to new heights in teaching. I look forward to all of our meetings.

Do you remember any of your favorite teachers? How did they inspire you?

Monty Fickel of Chadron State College, who recently passed away. Lenny Vermaas, Drs. Lutfi Lutfiyya, Patience Fisher, Jim Lewis, Michelle Homp, David Pitts, Christina Franklin, Dave Fowler and all of the Noyce teachers and the entire Math in the Middle instructional staff and participating teachers. In all cases what made these teachers so inspiring was their undying belief in me.

In 1992, I was the average kid in the back of the room, the one with the average ACT math score and below average reading score. But, each of the people listed above saw something in me that I did not see in myself. And they worked to get that potential out of me. They worked together to teach me a clear connected vision of the mathematics humankind has developed, a connected vision so complete that I recently knocked my GRE scores completely out of the ballpark. A vision so complete, that I feel confident enough in my own mathematical abilities to teach any course in mathematics from 4th grade through undergraduate and graduate classes. A vision so complete that I am constantly pushing all students in my own classes to see in themselves what my teachers saw in me. Doing this is my way of paying back those who believed in me, and I only hope and pray that my payment exponentially grows.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is all the new ways we can visualize mathematics with technology. Not that technology should drive our instruction, on the contrary. Technology has a power to enhance and connect what we already teach. For instance the other day we cut out a circle in several slices and then arranged them in a parallelogram shape. We started by making two cuts to make four slices, then four cuts to make 8 slices, each time trying to get closer to a rectangle of height r and length pi*r. When students were floundering at what I was trying to get at I showed them the YouTube video that derives the area of a circle from the area of a rectangle. So with a group of freshmen, we were able to explore for a brief moment a calculus concept, and almost everyone in the room understood what was happening and were excited about mathematics. Those are the moments I live for in education. Brief as they are at times, it is still a thrill to turn on the lightbulb of imagination for another human being.

What do you like to work on outside of teaching?

I have a small farm close to where I teach and I spend many hours working there with my wife and family. I like anything outdoors.

What is your favorite thing about Nebraska?

Wide-open spaces and an opportunity to be outside and alone when the need arises. Husker football, deer hunting, track and field, fishing, and farming. Hanging out at the UNL campus.