An Educator Who Sees the English Inside the Math Exams

Math teacher helping students improve test scores with sentence diagramming

Joy Lin was an excellent student growing up, graduating second in her high school class. After earning three degrees in natural sciences that put her on the path to medical school, she realized she wasn’t cut out to be a doctor because she didn't like blood or needles. So she turned to education. Joy started her teaching career with troubled kids and ended up in the juvenile detention center where kids are held between arrest and sentencing.

“I was dealing with a group of students who typically do not like to learn from textbooks. They varied in age from 10 years old to 18, “ she says. “I was forced to come up with some kind of a lesson that they could all participate in. The solution I came up with was Marvel DC movies. We would watch a movie and, periodically, I would pause the movie and talk about the physics behind each feat they were accomplishing on screen.”

123 Math spelled out on blocksThis superpower approach to teaching took off and eventually led to a series of popular TED Ed videos, putting Joy’s work on the map of education innovators. Now, she is a math teacher in the Austin Independent School District, where she is working on a different way to teach math that involves sentence diagramming.

She and her colleagues noticed that excellent math students were doing poorly on state math exams because of the word problems. As she says, the math test was more of an English test. As someone who was not a native English speaker, she knew that getting the students to at least understand the basics of the sentences of math problems would help.

“And that's where sentence diagramming comes in,” she says. “You have to break down the sentence to realize what words are the important verbs or important nouns and what words are just descriptive. You're trying to get the essence of what the sentence is saying.”

Joy's approach is working in Austin, and other educators are starting to take notice.

About Joy Lin

Joy LinJoy attended the University of Texas in Austin at 15 and graduated with 3 degrees by the age of 21. She has been teaching in Austin Independent School District ever since. In 2012, she was named one of 18 most inspiring educators by TED.com, which hosts TED talks among other projects. TED was so impressed with her; they funded a six-part animated series "If Superpowers Were Real." The animated series premiered in 2013 on TED.Ed and received international media attention from BBC, FOX, KUT, Time Warner Cable News, and over 100 websites.

The following year, Joy was named "Innovator of the Year" By Texas Classroom Teachers Association. In 2014, Joy started hosting Comic-Con panels in various cities, including Las Vegas Wizard World Comic Con, Texas Comic-Con, and the San Diego International Comic-Con. Having started in February 2015 as a stand-up comedian, Joy has performed at the 2015 Sacramento Comedy Festival, the 2016 NYC Crosstown Comedy Festival, and qualified as a quarterfinalist in the 2016 Funniest in South Texas contest.

Joy then transitioned to screenwriting/filmmaking and found immediate success with over 30 international and domestic film awards, including Winner of Independent Horror Movie Awards and Nominee of Paris Art and Movie Awards. Most recently, she became a published author with her book series "Superpower Science" via Hatchette Book Group, slated to release in 2018. Joy is currently an academic advisor to Sentence Analytics.

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Further Reading

It is acknowledged that Dr. Rod Berger serves as a strategic advisor to Sentence Analytics

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