“I hate Math because it’s dumb and boring.” Two years ago I coached a youth soccer team composed of nine and ten year olds. Most of my players used negative statements similar, to the above, to describe their mathematics education. These were ordinary children, playing on a recreation team, who otherwise liked school.
Jacqueline A. Hershey’s article, “How Schools Sabotage a Creative Work Force,” appearing in the July 13, 1987 issue of
reminded me of my old team. Dr. Hershey complains about the methods schools are using to teach math and science to her two children. The inane repetition distressed Dr. Hershey and her children just as it had turned off my team.
Dr. Hershey concludes her article by saying how America can ill afford to produce students that are technically illiterate. I totally subscribe to that view. More and more manufacturing jobs are leaving the United States. The jobs that remain require an increasing amount of technical sophistication. This summer I am working for the Barnes Group, the chief manufacturer of automotive springs in the United States. The office workers must be proficient with personal computers, modems, laser printers and increasingly complex software packages.
John A Dorsey, the current president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, stated that math will play a more important role in future life, in the world of work that is becoming more technological. Math skills are a key to economic security and a chance for advancement.
As a teacher, I see the skills that the work world requires and I want to provide my students with the necessary technical knowledge. Much of our present curriculum lacks the challenge and vitality to do this. James T. Fey, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland feels that we spend too much time trying to get students to learn skills that are outdated. The goal is to get students to solve problems. We’ve got to find a way to avoid endless preparation in low-level skills. Technology can help students achieve that goal.
When I was coaching I didn’t want to lose. I did not view a defeat as the end of the world though or tell my players that they were losers I don’t want my students to be losers either. I want to prepare my students to be able to compete successfully. This requires being comfortable with rather than being afraid of math and science.
The other reason why it hurts me to see students not like mathematics is that I’m a math teacher. I enjoy doing math. I want my students to experience the same pleasure, the same feelings of success. Math is a big puzzle waiting to be solved, an exciting cause and effect game.
I would like to clarify one point. When I say that I want my students to be able to get a job, I do not mean that money is the ultimate aim. However, I think you’ll feel better about yourself if you are using your skills rather than being unemployed. My mother has said that she’s been rich and she’s been poor; and that she likes being rich better.