Middle School math teacher Rachel Sun is in her first year at Baker, teaching seventh- and eighth-grade algebra and co-teaching sixth-grade math.
Mrs. Sun joined us this fall after relocating from the Boston area, where she spent the past six years at Montrose School, an independent girls’ school for grades 6-12, teaching math and serving as Middle School coordinator.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I love being able to take part in a student’s “a ha” moment, whether it’s understanding a previously opaque concept or grasping why a rule works as it does. One of my favorite instances of this came when I was working with an eighth-grade class on the surface area of solid figures. The class was discussing how to calculate the lateral area of a cylinder and a student leapt out of her seat to grab a container off my desk to visually demonstrate the concept.
My degrees don’t scream “math,” but I’ve always had a passion for it. In middle school, I remember exchanging mathematical logic puzzles with my dad via email when he was abroad on an extended business trip. My own intellectual curiosity took me in other directions, including an undergraduate minor focus on the use of geometry in art and a Master’s program in which I investigated how religion can inform people’s understanding of the world and of self. Math is a fascination to which I have always returned, and after nearly a decade of teaching math, I cannot imagine finding more joy in another topic. I make up math problems for myself when I’m out for a long run and I constantly consider different ways of approaching topics to make them more transparent for my students. I have an app on my phone that gives me daily math challenges, and I love to crunch through long problems in my spare time.
What traits do you look for in your ‘ideal’ student?
I am always delighted by students who are flexible thinkers and view the possibility of more than just one correct way to approach a math problem. I appreciate having students who apply their full effort to their studies and arrive prepared to ask questions, offer solutions, and collaborate with peers; I also enjoy students who are able to have a sense of humor about their own work and are willing to crunch through challenges step-by-step even if they may need to backtrack. As a self-described “math nerd,” I also love having students who tackle multifaceted logic problems or who ask me questions that make me consider new ways to approach topics.
What are some of your interests and hobbies?
I love to run and try to do so (recreationally) as much as possible, as well as participate in at least a few races each year. I am also an artist and particularly love oil painting subjects that demonstrate connections between mathematical and geometric forms and the natural world. As a new resident of Illinois, I’m also very much enjoying exploring Chicago and all it has to offer.