Friday, 25 April 2014

"Teach Me ANYTHING in 5 Minutes" They Said:

Reflections on a (Successful) Interview or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Mayo as a Metaphor for Math

I just found out that beyond having to catch up on the #MTBoS Missions from the fall there is also now currently a 30 days of blogging challenge under the #MTBoS30 tag. Not sure I'll do an everyday blog, but that's no reason not to post now (the dishes and the 30 minutes window before I start my evening restaurant shift are, but that hopefully will excuse some of the license I'm bound to take with things like spelling, grammar, punctuation....

I interviewed today for a second tutoring job. I love the place I tutor at currently, it's a centre with cats, dogs, tea and snacks, many textbooks, laptops, etc. I get emails with my appointments/cancellations, go there a bit before the appointed time and get to tutor high school preCalc, Calc, and first year Calc, plus some other stuff when it comes up.

I applied for this new place because I saw an add posted online for a tutor for an elementary school student in my neighbourhood for in home tutoring. I've done this before, prior to my B.Ed program and am looking forward to how I will have changed as a tutor since then. I'm also looking at more elementary level education right now, whereas the last year or so has been more high school level. [I'm into doing it all, but have to pick jobs to apply for and the AQ/PD courses to take.]

I had a skype interview that went well and I was asked to come in this morning to do a group session with a few other tutoring candidates (we were not in direct competition; I think it was to see how we engaged with other people and to save time overall). We were all asked to be prepared to teach the interviewer ANYTHING in about a 5 minute time frame, assuming no prior knowledge. 

I thought about doing the division algorithm I prefer (see previous post) or radian measures or doing some sort of lesson on math stuff. I find direct instruction kind of boring and the interviewer had said we could teach her ANYTHING and mentioned that someone had done magic, someone else had done a game; things like that. I got stuck on the idea of cooking something, in particular of making mayo. 

I have worked in restaurants for about 10 years now (on and off, mostly on, but with some time off during my undergrad and B.Ed programs; plus that year of farming that is food related but not restaurant work directly....). I worked at a French Bistro in Guelph that made handmade mayo and salad dressing exclusively. That worked out to 4-6L of each, up to 3 times a week. And by hand, I mean with a big whisk and a large bowl and me (or whomever) feeling like their arm was going to fall off. Every once and a while a new chef would use the blender and no one could tell the difference ... but the chef wanted it done by hand.

Mayo is an emulsion (read: mixture) of oil and water, which don't normally like to be mixed. You can see this if you dump some oil into a glass or bowl of water. It's bound with a raw egg yolk, flavoured with vinegar and (often) mustard, salt and pepper. The only trick is to whisk REALLY hard at the start so the emulsion starts to form while adding in the oil VERY, VERY slowly. 

I think it took a bit more than 5 minutes, maybe even closer to 10. Especially considering I got the interviewer to go wash her hands (good food prep practice) while I set up the supplies on the table and poured oil into a couple 1 Cup mugs I had brought along. I had the interviewer follow along with me as we both made mayo in separate bowls. 

It got me thinking about math and cooking. How both have standard and important algorithms and practices (I actually refer to a lot of math "bits" as recipes when talking to students and think connects a bit more to their worlds). Learning one thing in both often helps learn other things. The emulsion we did is useful not just for making mayo, but also for salad dressing and sauces like hollandaise. 

In both cases though, knowing the algorithms is really far off from doing the thing. Answering a real problem with math (and mathematical thinking) and making dinner for yourself or your family are much more than factoring a quadratic or making a basic emulsion, but the more of the underlying stuff you know the easier it is for you to put it together in a way that makes sense to the context your in (and that you find pleasing to eat.) In both cases you need the confidence to think that you can do the whole thing, and that you can find your way to a solution, even if something goes off the rails somewhere along the way. 

My worlds are colliding! Now off to work. 

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