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He figures math is pretty important

By ELISABETH DYER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 9, 2007


He has been called the district's math guru. Hanna G. Hanna has been teaching math 29 years, first in public and private schools and colleges in Cairo, Egypt, then in Texas, Illinois and Hillsborough County. He set the standard at Young Middle Magnet, which won math awards statewide. He now teaches geometry at Alonso High School, and for 11 years he has hosted the Math Homework Hotline's live TV show on Wednesdays. We caught up with him recently.

Many students are taking algebra and geometry in middle school now. Is math curriculum getting harder?

I don't really think this is true. We were so far behind almost every other country. We are trying to crawl, little by little, but still the courses we are teaching in seventh grade they had in sixth grade. We are realizing this, the Department of Education, and trying to push forward and make the gap smaller. Algebra and geometry can both be taught comfortably in eighth grade.

Have you ever been stumped by a question?

(He laughs) I corrected more questions than I was stumped by. Often the error is in the question or it was simply copied wrongly. When I look at it, I just have this gift God gave me, and I owe it to him that I can look at the question and criticize it and find the mistake.


What do you think is the biggest stumbling block in math?

I believe the biggest stumbling blocks are not in the middle school nor in the high school but it's sleeping in the elementary stage. Because the elementary teachers are not equipped to teach math in the right way, students are falling behind in mathematics. This is what's causing the entire country to fall behind in mathematics in general.

I have tutored some teachers; they were struggling with math themselves. You cannot teach fourth- and fifth-graders if you don't know how to deal with fractions. If they just put a certified math teacher in all elementary schools, children would excel in a 10- to 15-year period. This is the solution.

What's your answer to that nagging question "When will I ever use this?"

I would answer with another question. Give me a career that doesn't use math? I could tie any career to math in an easy way, especially technology. You cannot do technology without a strong background in math. Algebra is the language of problem solving. There isn't a career without problem solving. Whether you do medicine, law or economy, algebra is your toolbox. You cannot be a good laborer without a toolbox.



How's your math?

Try your hand -and brain - on these middle school math problems featured on Math Homework Hotline:

A) Ann leaned a 26-foot ladder against the house to wash the upstairs window. The foot of the ladder is 10 feet from the house. How high can the ladder reach?


B) If the area of a square is 121 square feet, what is the perimeter of the square?


C) 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 ... + 97 + 98 + 99 + 100 = ?

This problem reportedly took several minutes to solve by a 12-year-old student, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, one of the world's greatest mathematicians.


A) 24 feet

B) 44 feet

C) 5,050


[Last modified November 8, 2007, 06:50:41]

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