In third grade I loved math. I was even in “math enrichment” meaning I got a packet of extra problems to try my luck solving. I prided myself on winning multiplication table trivia and winning “Around the World” (fun game). I enjoyed all of this. It worked my mind, made me curious, and even gave me confidence. I felt this way all through elementary school.
Middle school rolled around and I started having trouble. Not big trouble. I got through my first two years of middle school somewhat fine but still i was getting increasingly disheartened. In 8th grade the track was either honors or regular math and I was dying to be in all honors classes so that was where I went. And that was the end of me and math. I got my first B for the quarter. Suddenly my whole confidence with school became shaky and that, really, was when the fallout between me and math happened.
I got on the bandwagon with the people saying “math is pointless,” or “when am I ever going to use this in life?” and the usual bits. All through 9th and 10th grade that was what I said.
Now, I don’t feel much better about math class. But here is the distinction that I realized. It isnt math that I have a problem. Its how math is taught that I have a problem with. When I get to class I am not excited to begin discovering. My mouth is stuffed with formulas, and I’m given ways to solve every problem without even having to think about it. That isnt math.
I propose doing things a different way. Of course the basics of math have to be taught in a more interesting way, but for now I am going to talk about how I think I’d learn math better. Remember I am not even close to an expert on anything math related, I am just using my experiences. The different way I’m talking about revolves around a lot of things I’ve already talked about. As a student I’d rather find the formula than be given it. This goes back to my idea of developing thinking, but this also works to build the student’s confidence. Let us have the Eureka moment. I know that when I say make math fun I’ll be met with “that is the cliche answer everyone has been saying” but I really think that changing the philosphy of class from that of formula driven to one of discovery driven can really do that. Maybe it sounds like I’m giving a quick fix to a big issue. Maybe short term test grades won’t be golden, but I think kids gaining problem solving skills would translate to better test grades in the long run anyway. Even so, fixing test scores isn’t a comprehensive solution. And I don’t want to have to sacrifice discovery and problem solving skills to do well on a test.