Saskatoon math teacher first in Canada to win prestigious award
SASKATOON -- A high school math teacher has punched his ticket to the Big Apple after stepping away from the textbook for a lesson and rolling the dice.
Nat Banting, a mathematics teacher at Marion M. Graham Collegiate is the first Canadian math teacher to win the Rosenthal Prize for Innovation and Inspiration in Math Teaching, from the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City.
"I think it's an interesting win for the province of Saskatchewan," Banting said.
Banting's winning lesson was called "Dice Auction: Putting outcomes of the dice up for sale."
The lesson requires students to try and predict the outcome of dice rolls.
But Banting said the lesson also includes in an element of risk that forces students to make more decisions about the possible outcomes and then adds the element of bidding on the outcome.
"For instance, if a double is rolled, we can calculate the probability of that but we're not done, we calculate what a fair price would be and how much am I willing to overpay," Banting said.
Once the bets are in, the pair of dice is rolled 20 times and the team that placed a bet on the most frequent outcome wins.
"Some students over-bet on one thing or (say) 'I'm saving money for another item.'"
As part of the application process for the award, Banting who had just started a stint at the University of Saskatchewan teaching math education had to try his lesson out in a Grade 8 class
Banting reached out to a colleague at Dalmeny High School, Kirsten Dyck, and asked to take his lesson for a spin in her class.
"It was amazing," Dyck said. "Being able to teach math through authentic experiences is something many educators in Saskatchewan are passionate about and knowing my students would have this opportunity was a no-brainer for me."
Banting spent a week at Dalmeny High School and as part of the process of being named a finalist for the award, Banting used the class in Dalmeny as his video submission for the award.
And Dyck's students were grateful for the experience.
"They talked about how much fun they had, but they also talked about the creativity and it was great for me to hear when they spoke about the math as well as the fun."
Established in 2012, the National Museum of Mathematics is the only math museum in North America and Banting is the first Canadian winner of the Rosenthal Prize, which includes a $25,000 cash award.
In a news release, the museum said Banting's lesson was chosen "as the most innovative, unique and interesting project for students. In the winning lesson, students test their intuitive probabilistic reasoning of dice throws with a dynamic outcomes auction."
Banting is flying to New York City Jan. 7 to receive his award, but he said nothing he did here is different than what every educator does on a daily basis.
"Teachers go above and beyond like this all the time this is not an anomaly like some random math teacher in Saskatoon decided to take on a passion project, teachers are doing this constantly," he said.