Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Math?

I'm teaching a preservice teacher math for high school course this semester. You wouldn't know, since I've been so bad at blogging this semester. This is the best group of writers collectively I've ever had, I think.

There's an odd issue, though. They're already leaving the profession! Here's some last blog posts:

Then Dan Meyer had this amazing group keynote at CMC-some direction. We need math teachers to teach good reasoning so that people will not spread fake news. And a lot of other good reasons. And Bowman Dickson wrote his teaching philosophy, which motivates me just reading it.

I think about why teaching a fair amount, but don't know that I think about why math teaching. I'm so far in, there's no getting out. But what about our students? One thing I'm hearing more and more is how many people are telling young people to not go into teaching. But if they are persevering in pursuing teaching, why should they teach math?

Math is power for their students. If they are successful in math, their choices for future careers expand. If they learn the mathematical practices, they will be more successful in any career. But beyond that, it will support them in living a better life, making better choices and being more informed.

The very first course I taught (30+ years ago!), and I use taught loosely because I was not a good teacher, I was impressed by how after a good lesson, students could do something that they could not do beforehand. They had literally expanded their capabilities. What a privilege to teach a subject like that.

Math is beautiful. It's not often taught that way, but the sheer power of the ideas that underly what is taught is bewildering. The complexities of the infinitely small and large, the realms of pure thought can be traversed, and the ineffable mysteries of what is possible. WOW. Eugenia Cheng describes math as the logical study of logical things. How does that humble beginning become star-spanning cosmologies and quantum field theories? Jamie Radcliffe described math as a language in which you can only write poetry. There is some bad poetry, but the best has a power and grace that is preserved through the centuries.

I teach math because it is worth knowing and I want to share it. Because I want more people with whom to play!

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