A Builder of Math Skills

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Not everyone can teach middle school math—and have students enjoy it. Luckily, Columbia Secondary School students have Dee Martin dishing out integers and making pie charts a little more palatable.

“She has influenced my son and his class and in a very powerful way,” said parent Alison Loeb. “My kid is always coming home with, ‘Professor Martin told us this really funny story about…’ Math is his favorite subject and he does his math homework first, almost always.”

Martin tries to sweeten fractions lesson with Valentine’s Day conversation hearts, the pastel-colored candies that bear little messages.

“I try to show them the math,” Martin said, explaining how she uses the treats to illustrate how to turn a fraction into a decimal.

Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

“She makes us understand the math work even if we don’t have a clue about it,” said one of her students, 10-year-old Nicolas Fernandez. “I didn’t understand the graph and she came to my table and explained it to all of us so we get a second notion of it.”

Teaching isn’t Martin’s first career. She has an extensive architecture background and ran her own company, Bailey Construction/Martin Designs, for years. But after her mother died of breast cancer and one of her favorite clients died in the 9/11 attacks, she decided it was time to give back to the world and do something new.

When a retired principal originally suggested that Martin try teaching math, her first response was, “No, no, no. I love psychology, history and social studies.”

“But,” she said, “he was right.”

Martin has now taught for six years, and never looks back.

Parents and students think she has found the right fit, too.

“She works hard to get to know each child as an individual and uses this understanding to teach and design activities in math that are going to reach the children,” parent Tina Glover said. “She is truly an outstanding person who we are blessed to have teaching our children.”

At Columbia Secondary, Martin also feels blessed because she can give back to public schools, which her own son attends.

Originally, from Miami, Martin came to New York when she was 18 to attend Barnard College. She has now been in the city for more than 10 years. Martin continued her education at Columbia, where she completed a master’s degree in architecture. When Martin decided to get another master’s, this time in education, she went through the NYC Teaching Fellows program.

When she isn’t in the classroom, the self-professed “culture vulture” wanders the city’s museums, constantly reads, participates in marathons and loves to bike. She still enjoys architecture and even teaches a class on the subject at Columbia Secondary while taking on summer projects and freelance assignments.

Dee Martin
Middle School Math, Columbia Secondary School

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