August 8, 2017
Motivation in Mathematics
With everything going on in a student’s day to day life, it can be tough to appreciate the wonders which mathematics can help us accomplish. From the phones we use to the sports we play, math helps explain everything we experience in the real world. But this appreciation doesn’t seem to form or stick for very long in the classroom. Why? Whether we want to blame the overdose of standardized tests, classroom behavior, the people we sit next to, or the school we attend, we can develop an appreciation for math. This is because when we work to understand why something is important, learning about it becomes profoundly easier. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or parent, you can use this short blog to take the next big step in understanding and conveying the importance of mathematics. Again, if we understand why something is important, learning it becomes easier and – more importantly – enjoyable.
Learning happens best when teacher and student are working together.
One of the common eyebrow-raising questions a teacher can hear is: “Why do we have to learn this?” This is the clearest sign the student isn’t on the same page, and an even clearer sign the teacher isn’t reminding students of the why. As a high school teacher, I constantly reminded students that I’m here to teach for the year, not for the day. And I reminded students that they are learning not for today, but for life. For every moment we experience, we can apply some mathematical concept to it. Just because we don’t see how a vertex formula applies to what we see today doesn’t mean it won’t be important later, just like the alarm on your phone may not be useful in the middle of the day, but instead first thing in the morning. Yet we don’t delete the alarm app on our phone because we know we’ll need it later. Math works the same way – almost every concept you’re learning right now has a very good use in explaining something you’ll see down the road or even later in the lesson. If we can keep the future in mind when learning and teaching, we allow ourselves to be open to a deeper understanding of math.
First, work to understand its importance.
Everything you’ll learn can be applied.
Remember & Remind WHY
Teachers, don’t forget to remind your students why math is important in your own authentic way. Saying they’ll need it for the SAT isn’t why math is important, it’s just what it can be applied towards; that reason will manipulate a student for the school year, but never beyond. Challenge yourself to be a better educator and identify true reasons why math is important for our students. My favorite reason is that math is the language that explains moments of life.
Students, even if you don’t hate math, I’m sure you know someone who does. But how can you hate something you don’t understand? Saying you hate math is a smokescreen for not understanding it. To understand it, we need to keep our chins up and confidently ask questions. You’re a student. You’re supposed to struggle. You’re supposed to get stumped every now and then. It’s how we get past the humps that will define us down the road. Even we teachers don’t know everything. Admitting this is the first step in creating a great learning environment, and asking why is the second.
Ask yourself: Why is math important?
Remember, you’re supposed to struggle.
Struggling happens. Ask meaningful questions when it happens, like “why am I wrong?”
We can work together to be better students and educators. There are millions of reasons for why something is important, and I truly want you to ask yourself: Why is education important? Once you answer that, ask why that is important. And then ask again, and again, and again. When we start with why we learn, then how and what we learn becomes easier to soak in and before we know it, we’ll hold ourselves accountable not for a GPA or for anyone else, but for ourselves.
Start with WHY. Ask questions.
HOW and WHAT you learn will then transform into an entirely different process – an enjoyable one.
What helps you learn or teach consistently?