It's weird that it's still April, but it feels like the end of the school year is very near. Actually, this will be the latest I've ever gotten out of school. This is the first year I will be in class on my birthday (June 29), and I'm getting close to being in the 50th grade. 50th grade? Yeah, I've gone to school every year since I was five years old. I'm turning 54 this summer. Do the math.
Or don't. I won't judge. If I've had success as a teacher it's been largely because I work hard to make sure students don't feel judged by me for their struggles in math class. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. I remind students of this often. And the reality is that students don't need the majority of the math we ram down their throats. If you're reading this your probably an adult. How much of the math that you learned in high school do you use? Most of the math you probably use is arithmetic. Not much beyond adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Have you factored a quadratic equation recently? Calvin? Yeah. He's a math teacher. JP? Well, yeah. He's a gifted math student and the sort that might one day be a math teacher.
It drives me bananas that we make students take so much math. I've got plenty of thoughts on the issue. Why? How did this happen? Why do we make students take so much advanced mathematics?
Why? I trace it all back to Sputnik. It was the event that scared Americans so badly that we as a nation reacted by attempting to create as many engineers and scientists as humanly possible. Not much has changed. If anything paranoia and xenophobia has only gotten worse on both sides of the aisle in congress.
How? Politicians. Nobody gets elected by saying they want more interior designers, graphic artists, and coreographers. That doesn't sell at the ballot box. Further, it always has to be a higher standard. I think it's too high right now.
I'll never argue math isn't important, but specifically WHAT is important needs to be up for debate, and the people that make these determinations shouldn't be math teachers and politicians. Currently the common core standards dominate the math landscape, but are they a reasonable? I think so if you want to be an engineer and are heading in a path towards studying the calculus. That's not most people, and the system doesn't work for most people. Teaching Algebra 2 in the states is akin to selling manure to dolphins. Dolphins? Yeah, the most random animal I could think at the moment. They don't need it and don't want it.
If not advanced algebra, then what as another option. Probability and statistics. That's what I would rather teach to most students. Students can see it everyday in their lives. For now the system is geared towards funneling all our student towards calculus. Don't get me wrong. I like calculus. It's cool. But I'm a math teacher. I don't have a hard time seeing that it's not for everyone. Further, I'm glad there are people that enjoy advanced mathematics. Thank you Alan Turing for breaking the Nazi codes during WW2. Thank you John Nash for sharing your ideas about game theory. Thank you to all the engineers that helped to put this cell phone my hands.
Ok. Rant over. I needed that.
In other news I'm headed to Shanghai this weekend with my travel buddy Ivy. No specific plans yet. I think we're going to wing it. It's a three day weekend for me. No school Monday. I might try to get another round of golf in Monday. Might be weather dependent, but at the moment the forecast is good.