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Weber teaches math through experiences

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Butler Middle School teacher Judy Weber uses the arts to teach the numbers.

She dresses up and acts like Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras to explain his theorem on right triangles.

She sings "The X stands alone" to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" to help students learn algebra concepts. (It goes: "X plus a number, undo the addition, hi ho, the derry-oh, the X stands alone.")

She has students counting beans to grasp algebra and tinkering with toothpicks to understand concepts of area.

As Weber puts it: "My kids think I'm really strange, and I don't care. My goal is to get them to learn."

Jordan School District believes the tactics work. It recently bestowed Weber with Teacher of the Year honors.

"She is, in many ways, like a new teacher. She's always thinking of ways to keep current," principal Beverly Ashby said. "And she does a good job with kids, which is the bottom line."

Weber comes from a family of educators: her grandmother, father, aunts and brother teach. She majored in math at the University of Maryland and even worked summers at NASA. But her heart always stayed in the classroom.

Weber has taught 19 years now, 10 of them at Butler near the mouth of the Cottonwood canyons.

While there, she has written grants to secure $16,000 in calculators and other items to help students learn math and science. She is helping write the state math core curriculum, the standard for what Utah students should know.

But most of all, she wants her students to learn math through experience.

She helps students visualize math with beans in Dixie cups. They learn about medians and means by grabbing cubes out of a bag, then lining up different sizes in order and calculating where the middle is.

Students love the stunts. But they learn, too. Some visit her class years after they've left to announce plans to major in math at a university.

"I'm really focused on the kids. I try really hard to get them to understand," Weber said. "Comprehension is important to me, and for them to master things — not just to be exposed to them, but to claim them as their own."

E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com