Mr. DeBoer Uses Stories to Teach Math

By Journalism student Mallory

Mr. Michael DeBoer, a teacher at New Life Academy for 25 years, includes stories and life experiences in his lessons to engage and encourage students in his classes. 

“Telling stories keeps things interesting. I find that Jesus taught tough lessons through stories, so it must be a good idea,” DeBoer says. “Math is a hard subject to focus on, so telling stories keeps students tuned in.” 

He has many different stories and life experiences that he can relate to his lessons. It may not seem like it relates at first, but after the story is over it is much easier to remember the concepts. 

Senior Ariana Golembiesky says, “Every story Mr. DeBoer tells is funny and I can’t help but smile or laugh. He always has a story that will somehow relate to the topic of the class. It always seems to help me remember the topic better.” 

One of his main concepts is the asymptote concept which many students can get confused with at first, so he tells one of his favorite stories. It is about his dog on the farm that crossed the asymptote one day. 

“An asymptote is a line that a graph approaches but doesn’t cross. My dog would run up to the road but never cross it, every day. The road is the line and my dog is the graph.” Mr. DeBoer continues saying, “One day my dog got hit by a car when he accidentally crossed the asymptote. He died overnight; it was very sad.” 

After he tells this story, he gets a lot of mixed reactions and emotions, including laughter, tears, shocked faces, and more. Some people don’t even know how to react. 

Mr. DeBoer states, “The key is to trigger an emotion in an emotionless subject. You remember things better when your emotions are stirred. No one forgets what an asymptote is after hearing that story.” 

By telling stories about himself as a teenager or life experiences, students feel welcome and that they can be themselves. 

“I provide a place where students feel safe. I encourage them and make them feel like math is doable. I give a lot of grace to people. They can be genuine rather than perfect in my class. They are allowed to be themselves and they can figure out who they are a little bit more,” DeBoer explains. 

Mr. DeBoer makes an effort to be himself so others can be themselves in his class. He uses his humor to show his “quirky” side instead of being as serious as he may seem to come across.