When I walked into Masha Albrecht’s geometry class at Berkeley High School last week, her students were holding hands. It wasn’t budding romance. It was math. Before I explain, I have to tell you about Masha.
I met her when I was a senior at Cornell in the 1970s. I decided to do an independent study that involved working with students in an elementary school classroom and she was the most eager, bright-eyed fourth grader in the class. Masha’s brother Bobby was in an adjacent room and the two classes were team-taught. I hit it off with both siblings, and before the end of the semester I had been to their house several times, met their parents, and spent some enjoyable after-school hours together—doing math. The three of us had delved into Harold Jacobs’s masterful Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, then in its first edition, and we tackled the mind-stretching, often funny, problem sets with gusto. “This is how math should be taught in school,” exclaimed Mrs. Albrecht. Continue reading