West De Pere Middle School teacher shows students points of life

2014 Golden Apple winner, West De Pere Middle School math teacher Sean Gibbons.
2014 Golden Apple winner, West De Pere Middle School math teacher Sean Gibbons.

DE PERE – West De Pere Middle School's Sean Gibbons loves numbers – and baseball.

"I played my whole life," said the 22-year veteran math teacher, who also had a successful eight-year tenure coaching West De Pere High School’s varsity baseball teams, until 2011.

But as much as Gibbons loved crunching batting averages and on base percentages, baseball’s numbers game isn’t his constant.

"I think it's just coincidence, maybe," said Gibbons of his preference for the love of the sport that relies so heavily on statistics and physics. "(But I) feel like you have a lot of influence, in lots of ways – not just in math."

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Solving for distance

With his love of math in tow, Gibbons is taking his students out of the classroom and into the gym – bringing with him technology and quadratic formulas.

Gibbons’ algebra students are using a special iPad app to record video of basketballs tossed in the air.

The goal is to take the video and plot the objects' points and determine how far it traveled using the quadratic formula.

Upbeat way of teaching

"He likes to joke around with us a lot,” said Bridget Massey, an 8th grade student in his first hour class. “And it keeps the feel of the room, upbeat."

Massey says Gibbons' class is full of variables – except one.

“He really likes us to all get involved,” she said. “Instead of just writing down problems and drawing stuff, we are more active with what we do.”

"I know what students are going through and when they fight through the struggle, and they come out on top, and they get the answer,” said Gibbons of some people’s difficulties with mathematics, “That's really cool."

And that life is full of points -- and all that really matters is how you plot their importance.