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Nov. 5, 2002

Math Scholar

Memories of math often are negative for many students later in life.

Calvin senior Nancy Buist wants to overcome that when she's a teacher. In fact, her goal is to make math fun. She'll give it a try next semester as a student teacher at Ada Christian. And then, after her May 2003 graduation from Calvin, she hopes to make it a hallmark of her work as a teacher.

That passion comes from her own natural abilities (she still has fond childhood memories of working on extra credit math problems with her father, who owns an architectural sheet metal business) and from her recognition that already at a young age students develop their own strong feelings about math.

It also comes from having a heart for kids.

Buist and her family are active participants in the Healing the Children program, which brings children from across the globe to the United States to receive medical treatment.

"We've had kids at our house from all over the world," she says of the little ones, usually between the ages of two and six, who often stay with the Buist family for as long as half a year.

Buist, a Walker native and graduate of Calvin Christian High School, also has had plenty of experience with local elementary school children, having tutored fourth and fifth graders at an after-school program at Buchanan Elementary and aided in a classroom of ten-year-old autistic students at Brookwood Elementary. There she helped students learn basic skills like counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication and how to use money.

But this spring she'll step into the classroom as a student teacher, a prelude to a planned career as a elementary school teacher. And she'll be able to put her commitment to kids to the test with an age-group at Ada Christian (second-, third- and fourth-graders) that she says represents a critical stage in math development.

"Students," she says, "will often begin to struggle with math (at that age). I hope to show them both how necessary math skills are and how much fun math can be."

And while she's a year away yet from a formal teaching career, Buist's abilities already have been recognized. For her senior year at Calvin she was awarded a $1,500 scholarship by the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM). She was one of five students chosen this year from a field of 52 applicants to receive a Miriam Schaefer scholarship (Schaefer was a mathematics supervisor in the Flint school system and the registrar and executive secretary of MCTM for many years).

Applicants for the scholarships must be Michigan residents in their junior or senior year at a Michigan college or university, must be enrolled in a teacher education program, with mathematics as a specialty, and must plan to teach mathematics at the elementary, middle or high school level.

Buist says winning the MCTM scholarship is a huge honor.

"It's encouraging," she says, "that such a well-respected organization thinks I'm qualified."

Her Calvin professors concur with the selection.

Says Calvin mathematics professor Janice Koop: "She has all of the traits that will make her a great teacher. Plus she has a love for mathematics that she is anxious to share with her students."


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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)