As a teacher of mathematics I hear this almost EVERY TIME I introduce my self to another person. �OH! you know math, I could never do math�. Here�s a story I think is quite indicative of the harm of #backtothebasics, and ignoring what we have learned about learning mathematics (collectively, in psychological, sociological, and educational research, and critical reflection of our teaching experiences over the past decades), does to our fellow human beings, our friends, our children.

�Oh!, you do math? hm. I could never do math. You know, I came to Canada with my parents when I was five, failed grade 1, did it again, and then they pushed me through the rest of the grades. My parents could never help me – language, you know. I completed high school though.� and then he looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I say, �ah, but you use high powered math every time you design another renovation, do all the incredible work you do with your company�. �Yes� he says, �but I can never do the math YOU know�. Ironically, the math I know is exactly the math he knows � number operations, estimation, 3-D and 2_D geometry, spatial sense, measurement, optimization, and considering the interplay of variables in interconnected network systems (also called algebra and network theory); and communicating mathematically in verbal and written form (for example, he can clearly communicate mathematically to tell his employees what needs to be done so that materials and time are not wasted.)

This man has my utmost respect and admiration for the artistry, creations, and renovations he can perform that keep historical buildings looking like they are new. He has one of the most successful construction and building renovation companies around. His employees are dedicated to him (they love him), and I will go to no other person for work to be done on my 160 year old house.

Why should he feel ashamed of �not being able to do math�? Why should he not feel good about himself and the math he uses every day? Why does he perceive me as somehow �better than him� because I was able to memorize some mathematical algorithms and operations? (and just to be clear� I am NOT better than him.)

Why is memorization of facts the ONLY kind of math that is praised by society, when mathematical thinking from all the branches of mathematics is what supports and runs our society?

#evidencebased decision making is really the only way to move forward as a society� not fuzzy and suddenly rosy memories of how a few people were successful with their mathematics memorization when they were younger. 

#OntEd #mathematics #learning #teaching #evidencebased #caringforeachother #21stcentury #algorithms&concepts #CanadianMathWars 

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Jamie Pyper

Jamie Pyper

mathematics educator and researcher | mathematics teacher (OCT) | and craft beer enthusiast! | he/him | #MSTE Coordinator, #PBLmathEd #CMESG #NCTM | @314_per
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