Future Math Teacher Adds Managing Basketball Team to Equation

Mar 16, 2018 | Curriculum and Instruction

Blake Rudolph rebounds balls during Razorback basketball practice.

Blake Rudolph rebounds balls during Razorback basketball practice.

Blake Rudolph can do the math.

The University of Arkansas student will complete the Master of Arts in Teaching degree in May. He knows math teachers are in short supply in Arkansas and other states, too.

“I’ve known since I was 14 that I wanted to teach and coach,” Rudolph said. “Math is better for job security. I tutored my friends who struggled with math in middle school and high school.”

As a senior at his high school in St. Louis, Rudolph took part in a program known as cadet teaching in which he served as a teacher’s aide. He taught math lessons the teacher prepared.

“Ninth-graders liked hearing from a peer,” he said. “It helped them during class to feel comfortable.”

He believes people who understand math well and enjoy it still may be reluctant to become math teachers because they think concepts are hard to explain to others.

“I’m a trivia junkie,” he explained. “I know a little bit about a lot of things. So, I can use examples to compare concepts to kids’ lives. If a kid is a volleyball player, I use a volleyball analogy. The key is to relate math to something kids understand. The teacher I taught for as a cadet was like that.”

Rudolph played basketball, soccer and baseball in high school so, when he got to college, he added working as a manager for the Razorback basketball team to the equation. He has worked with the team for four years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the U of A, too.

Rudolph is doing a teaching internship at Fayetteville High School this semester. He didn’t travel to midweek games during the season but was able to get time off to attend the SEC tournament in his hometown of St. Louis. He traveled with the team to Detroit, where the Hogs will take on Butler today in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

With going to school early, working during planning periods and asking teachers to give him additional tasks, Rudolph said, the give-and-take with teachers worked out well.

“I’m very lucky; everyone has been helpful,” he said.

Working as one of seven managers for the team has helped him prepare for teaching and coaching, Rudolph said.

“It has helped me be more thorough, to think about what could go wrong, to be proactive,” he said. “I’ve always been pretty good at time management but this has helped me get a lot better. When you’re younger, you know what you should do, but sometimes you don’t want to do it.”

That means making sure equipment and uniforms are ready for use, setting up and taking down equipment for practice and working in the coaches’ offices.

“This is about being an adult,” Rudolph said. “The goal of our job is to get things done but not necessarily be seen or heard.”

Laura Kent, an associate professor of math education in the College of Education and Health Professions, described a dire situation in which fewer students are choosing mathematics teaching than in previous years.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, there was almost a 16 percent decrease in the number of new math teachers graduating from Arkansas universities from the 2015-16 school year (146 teachers) to the 2016-17 school year (123 teachers), Kent said. The numbers were from initial licensure data for grades 7-12 in mathematics.

“I do not know if this trend will hold up, but it does feel dramatic to me, especially given that there is already a shortage,” she said.

She hopes to have more students like Rudolph.

“He is a stellar student and has managed to not only complete an undergraduate degree in a most challenging degree program like mathematics, but has continued to be a manager for the men’s Razorback basketball team,” Kent said. “This is while completing an intensive M.A.T. degree program that currently requires him to complete full-time student teaching and take graduate level courses. He always gets his coursework done ahead of time. He has already established himself as an outstanding mathematics teacher candidate at Fayetteville High School this semester.”

Please contact Kent at lkent@uark.edu for more information about the secondary mathematics M.A.T. program at the University of Arkansas.