When I'm feeling provocative, at social gatherings I'll sometimes pose this question:
"At what grade do you think students generally start to dislike math?"
Answers vary, of course. Many people cite around middle school, at the time of the kids' hormonal changes and increased social and academic pressures. I've also heard the following quip several times, and it always makes me smile, "when math stops being numbers and starts being letters." Clever.
In my heart though, and I confess this to them every time afterwards, I'm intentionally asking the wrong question. The real question is why is that question even valid?
In my ideal world, everyone would reply, "Why would they dislike math?" Very few people actually question my question. Too few, in fact. On the other hand, too many people answer me literally, and that needs to change. For example, imagine if I asked instead, "At what grade do you think students generally start to dislike reading?" Totally different response, right?
Here's the thing. Me, and you... that's how it changes. Learning is a beautiful act; it just needs proper "packaging." Just look at a small kid meandering within their world. They're hyper-engaged and curious. We, as educators, families, and as a civilization, deeply know the value of creating life-long learners. We need to frame the learning so that it ignites their innate sense of wonder.
Yay Math is my contribution in this regard. The stakes have always been high within middle-to-upper level math. Not just in the way that sounds, regarding the grades and college aspects. I'm talking about the far graver possibility of souring these kids away from their hard-wired senses of engagement and curiosity. And sadly, for generations, math has become the spoon that force-feeds them this poisonous distaste for learning. To boot, now with schools straining under this health crisis, both teachers and parents look for solutions.
This vision, this concept, this mission of uplifting the kids' math experience, is one that swirls around my skull every day of my life. I think about it with my kids, and every time I piece something together for Yay Math. I want us to be audacious in our hopes.
Can students regularly smile or laugh while learning something challenging?
Can they roll their eyes not with resentment, but rather with a sense of loving acceptance at my/our occasional corniness?
And can such elevated feelings carry them when the road gets tough, and they need to persevere through a difficult set of problems?
You already know what Yay Math is, and what it stands for. So on the eve of tomorrow's Algebra 1 launch, I simply wanted to share what goes on in my mind and heart while I create.
The next message you receive will officially announce the launch, and include more nuts-and-bolts features of the course. I'll also outline valuable additions to the existing Geometry and Algebra 2 programs.
It's safe to say that this upcoming school year will be unlike any other in our lives. The way I see it, leaning on and helping each other will make it, and us, shine.