Hawaii's Top Teachers
Saturday, June 8, 1996

Name: Fay Zenigami
Age: 44
Position: Nanakuli High School mathematics teacher
Education: University of Hawaii-Manoa
Pastimes: Movies, baking and relaxing

Adapting to different styles

Fay Zenigami's technique for teaching mathematics has undergone a metamorphosis over the past few years.

It started when the former math resource teacher decided to get back into the classroom at Nanakuli High School two years ago. She wanted her students to know that math was "not just numbers on a paper."

"Now I give my students activities in which they can discover math concepts," she said. "They construct their own understanding of these ideas."

Zenigami recently shared one example with teachers from across the nation as the 1995 state high-school level recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. She and three other Hawaii teachers traveled to the nation's capitol as part of the honor.

During a workshop, Zenigami shared her favorite lesson on angles. Instead of using a protractor, she had her pre-algebra students work with blocks of all shapes to visually discover the relationships of angles. By the end of the lesson, students felt confident about identifying the different angles.

"Everyone has different learning styles so we need to teach so that we reach as many of those students as we can," Zenigami said.

Just the other day, a student asked Zenigami about the award.

"She said, 'It's because you teach math differently. Yeah, because you know I really understand what fractions mean now.'"

By Kim Murakawa, Star-Bulletin

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