Golden Apple: Teaching Probability in North Clay Middle School

If you've been looking for X, it is in Russell True's algebra class at North Clay Middle School.

Posted: Apr 30, 2019 9:33 AM

CLAY COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - The probability of two teachers from the same school winning a Golden Apple Award is very low.

But the odds of it happening twice in one year? That's unheard of in the 30 years we've been honoring teachers.

This year, it happened. Two teachers from Richland County Middle School in Olney won a Golden Apple.

Two teachers from North Clay Middle School in Brazil were also winners.

One of those educators knows all about probability.

Russell True is described as a 'pillar of the school.'

He weaves real-life lessons into mathematics.

If you've been looking for X, it is in Russell's algebra class at North Clay Middle School.

When we stopped in, Mr. True was teaching probability.

You can use the mathematical term in card games, soccer, and sports betting...but more importantly than any of those, you can use it in real life.

"Probability is about making a choice, and so every time you make a choice, that's using probability. When you decide whether to talk to your friend a little longer, or whether to come to class...you're thinking about, gee, what is the probability that I'm going to be late," Russell said.

He has been weaving in real-world lessons with math at North Clay since the school opened 35 years ago.

Some students say he is like a grandpa to them, and just like any grandpa, he wants his students to 'get it' and succeed.

Russell worked a number of different jobs growing up, including construction, retail, and gardening.

He used those experiences to relate math to kids as much as possible.

"Some of the kids who are a little low in the academics excel at hands on. So when I can show them how you can use the Pythagorean Theorem to square a deck that you're going to build or how to make sure the shingles on your roof line up...just another way to reach them," Russell told us.

He told us he fell in love with this age group, saying middle schoolers can be a goofy bunch, but that allows him to be goofy as well.

It's his fun ways that touch these students the most.

"He puts in stories that we've never heard of and makes it funny for everyone so we all pay attention," Tanner Clausen, a 7th grader at the school said.

Abigail Vitz nominated Mr. True for the Golden Apple.

"He takes you under his wing and he'll show you how to do things," Abigail said.

The odds of probability put Russell True in the classroom, changing young lives in Clay County for decades.

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