I Used to Love Math

            I used to love math. It was a puzzle full of fascinating challenges with complex, yet fulfilling solutions. I dared to do more and learn more. If you were to guess, my future would involve solving intricate math problems despite their levels of difficulty. That soon changed.

            Knowing my times table on the dime became evermore important. Being the fastest to finish every long division problem was the hip thing to do. Unfortunately, rather than math being an exciting and stimulating activity, it became a chore. As Stanford Mathematics Education Professor Jo Boaler would put it, I was suffering from a case of “math anxiety.”

            For a motivated and inspired young student, this failed to cultivate an academic interest and passion. Math became more about how quickly, rather than how to go about solving a problem and why. Speed is meant to come with experience, not pressure. It is like a coach telling a baseball pitcher that it is more important to throw the ball fast than it is to throw it accurately. 

            In a time when there is a lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, this approach to teaching the basics of mathematics is turning more students away from these fields than turning out astronauts, innovators, physicists, and programmers.

            Life is a high-stakes game. It does not need to be full of high-stakes tests. These tests are stress inducers.  Anxiety is becoming commonplace amongst our youth, which diminishes their yearn to learn. High school physics teacher and Presidential Award Finalist for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, Frank Noschese practices teaching on the basis of “Model development. Model deployment. And model failure.” He develops a student’s basic skills necessary for him or her to deploy them for use. Furthermore, Noschese stresses that failure must be welcomed. We must develop and deploy individuals who are focused on throwing an accurate pitch rather than a fast pitch. We must embrace failure as a building block on a path to success.  

            Knowledge is timeless and ubiquitous. Let’s shut the clock off and let’s learn.

 

 

Zak Malamed
RLT Student Leadership Board Leader
Twitter: @ZakMal