I hope you are all well!

Teaching math has been so. Much. Fun. Honestly, I could not have asked for anything better! When I first heard about the position it sounded too good to be true, and now having been here for nearly a year (!) I have found that it is even better than I was expecting.

My initial qualifications took about four months, finishing up in December shortly before going home for Christmas. It involved learning all about the reactor system, everything from the physics behind the reactions, to the materials used in construction, to the chemical balances maintained in various parts of the system, to the radiation health risks and how we quantify and mediate them. I had never dived so deeply into a single system, and I loved it! It was a stark difference from my experience at college, where I just skimmed across the surface of many different topics and systems, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more. I love seeing how everything works together and getting to look at the same system from so many different perspectives. I think that has also helped me retain way more of the knowledge compared to my classes at college, where it often felt like I was just trying to keep up with the classes at hand and constantly forgetting everything from prior classes. I am sure it would come back fairly quickly if I studied it, but I couldn’t tell you much of anything about some of my college classes now. Even my classes from senior year are a bit of a blur. In contrast, I am constantly referring back to the other subjects I have studied here at NPS because they are all directly relevant to what I am teaching and the types of questions my students ask.

**Teaching Math**

And that really brings me to think that Math is the perfect first division to teach here! Math is used as a cornerstone for pretty much every other subject at the school, so I have the opportunity to talk about how equilibrium buildup relates to both radioactive decay and inductive circuits, and how the simple definition of exponents and logarithms are essential to analyzing various systems, from moderating the reaction rate in the core to chemical balance.

Beyond the endless cross-connections to other classes, I also love teaching math simply because it is math! It is amazing how many students even after completing high school and the A-school they go to before NPS still have major fundamental misunderstandings of how math works. I am so thankful to have had such excellent math teachers throughout my life, and it has been a great joy to see students succeed at math, many for the first time in their lives. Yeah, it is also really fun to see the students that are exceptionally gifted at math come through, and I have seen a few of those already, too, but what really makes me excited is working with the struggling students.

Really, as far as my experience as a teacher goes, I just really want the students to be putting forth an honest effort and keeping engaged in class. The most annoying thing is when someone is just not paying attention in class or just shrugging and giving up when asked a question. I just don’t understand those students at all, I really don’t. I don’t care whether you are good at math, I just want you to think through what we talked about today and give me anything you can come up with! I don’t care if it is wrong! We can talk about it! If you don’t understand it now let’s try to fix that before you go and try your homework, because you won’t be able to do your homework and then you will spend a couple hours talking with your classmates trying to figure it out, but the only people you are talking with are other people who don’t have a clue, so none of you are going to finish it correctly and you will get less sleep and come in with even less motivation tomorrow, and then I have to make you redo your homework because it was incoherant and then you are in an even *worse* position than before! This is not difficult to think through! AAHHHH! Just talk to me during class, or come by the office because chances are if there is light outside I am in there and willing to help you!

And that brings me to my favorite thing to teach: Power Prep. Last time I talked a little about A-school and Power School. Well, if students don’t do particularly well in A-school, then before they class-up in Power School they go through a 3-week program called Power Prep. The whole goal of Power Prep is to give struggling students a leg up, and expose them to some of the material they will see later on so that when they see it in their actual classes it is for the second time and they hopefully can latch on a little bit better. Power Prep math is historically one of the classes with the worst passing rate in the schoolhouse (<50%), but I absolutely love teaching it. Yeah, I get those students that are just complete blobs of unmotivation and that is why they didn’t do well in A-school, but I also get to see a ton of students that are in there giving it their all and just not quite meeting the bar yet. And *those* students are my very, very favorite to work with. The feeling of seeing someone finally grasp why exponent rules work they way they do for the first time, or finally being able to simplify and solve equations when they have never really been able to do it before makes me feel like I am living in the clouds. It is almost magical. And I have had the opportunity to see that happen so many times, now. Some of my most memorable times teaching so far have come from someone in my power prep class asking a question so basic, so fundamental to the way math works, that I have no idea how to answer off the top of my head. Just realizing that there is such a root disconnection between the way this person has thought about math their entire lives and what is actually doing on, and then being able to go off that and take the opportunity to try to rebuild the foundation of their logic system. Somehow people make it all the way through high school and don’t even understand that multiplication is just adding the same thing over and over, which I took for granted as things that *everyone* knows from age, like, 4. While misunderstandings at that level are pretty rare (though definitely extant), misunderstandings one level up are about as common as sand. Just like multiplication is adding over and over, exponents are multiplying over and over. And if you think about it in that way, every single “Rule of Exponents” that you are trying to *memorize* (ohhh, I am starting to hate that word) fall out naturally. And then you get to talk about how a logarithm is literally the exact same thing as an exponent, just taking a different perspective, and all of the exact same rules apply. And maybe, just *maybe* after going through these fundamentals of arithmetic a half dozen times with someone, I finally get to see them start to understand and be able to demonstrate and solve problems, and then new types of problems, and then intuitively ask the *right* questions about *why* we care about these things and whether we can go a level further, and then I know that I have succeeded and this guy (or gal) is going to do just fine.

## Moving Forward

As hard as it is to believe, my time in the math department is quickly coming to and end. In the few months I have been here, I went from being one of the new guys to being one of the 3 most senior people in the division (at least if measuring by simply how long someone has been in the division). Jackson and I were both recruited to teach Reactor Principles, and I will be starting to dive deeper into that subject in the coming weeks and months, probably moving divisions in September. While I have deeply enjoyed my time in math, I am also looking forward to seeing what it is like teaching a more technical subject. I am also very glad that Jackson and I will be able to stick together through that transition! I have really enjoyed his friendship so far, so it will be great to still be working in the same office.

## Other Life Stuff

Between these last two updates I have not really scratched on what my life has been like outside of work! I have plenty I would like to tell you about all of that, especially with the current quarantine situation that has been ongoing for the last 4 months, but unfortunately my time is running out for tonight. Hopefully that will be the topic of the next post I make, whenever that might be!

Happy Independance Day, and stay safe out there!

-Christopher