TITLE: Two True Sentences about Teaching Math AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 11, 2017 9:40 AM DESC: ----- BODY:
Math phobia is a common affliction of [K-12] teachers, and something that must be resisted if strong and able students are our goal.
Our own confusion about math can be an important aid in our teaching, if we take it seriously.
That second sentence applies to more than math, and more than K-12. These come from To Teach, by William Ayers. This book is about teaching in K-12 schools, especially younger grades, with no particular focus on math or any other subject. These sentences come from a chapter on "liberating the curriculum", in which Ayers talks about specific issues in teaching reading, math, science, and social studies. Otherwise, the book is about ways of thinking about learning that respect the individual and break down artificial boundaries between areas of knowledge. Teaching at a university is different, of course, because we are working with older, more mature students. They are more capable of directing their own learning and are, at least in my discipline, usually taking courses as part of a major they themselves have chosen. You would think that engagement and motivation would take on much different forms in the college setting. However, I think that most of what Ayers says applies quite well to teaching college. This is especially true when students come to us hamstrung by a K-12 education such that they cannot, or at least do not as a matter of habit, take control of their learning. But I think his advice is true of good teaching anywhere, at least in spirit: One of my favorite lines from the book is You can learn everything from anything. Start with any topic in the CS curriculum, or any project that someone wants to build, and you will eventually touch every part of the field. I think we could do some interesting things with the CS curriculum by focusing courses on projects instead of topic areas. I love how Ayers suggests bringing this mindset even to kindergarten students. Ayers's book is a thin volume, the sort I like, with good stories and thought-provoking claims about how we approach students and schools. Eugene sez: two thumbs up. -----