Jun
14
2007

# Maths? Hard Work?

The other day, I went to Dylan’s open house at school and met his maths teacher. We went through the usual awkward self-introduction:

“So, who do you belong to?”

“Dylan”

“Oh! Dylan! He works so hard!”

“No! Dylan Lawrence!”

Apparently, Dylan’s teacher was under the misapprehension that Dylan works hard at maths. I tried to explain to her that maths was Dylan’s favourite subject because it required no work at all. She found the notion very odd. I thought it was obvious.

For me, at Dylan’s age, maths was my favourite subject too. It required no study or work and, every now and then, the teacher would give you some cool puzzles to work on. I would often slyly do maths in other classes when the teacher wasn’t looking. Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to Dylan’s maths teacher that people would enjoy doing maths.

I have encountered this odd attitude before. When Dylan started fourth grade, at back to school night, his teacher explained how hard maths was for the children but that she had a bunch of manipulatives to help with the difficult concepts and she would take them through it step by step and, usually, by the end of the year they would understand.

What would it be like, I wonder, to have a maths teacher who enjoyed maths? I had english teachers that enjoyed their subject ..and history …and physics …and chemistry …and biology …and french …but never maths.

What if the default assumption in the maths class was that kids like maths and find it easy. What would that class be like?

Imagine if, at the start of the year, they said “OK. Everyone who loves maths come with me. We are going to teach you separately. Your teacher like maths too”. What would that class be like?

To their credit, Dylan’s school has advanced placement for maths and they give the new sixth graders a test. If they pass, they go into a class with a bunch of surly seventh graders who don’t like maths.

Anyway, Dylan just passed the test that lets him take high school maths next year. All he needs to do now is get the form signed and handed in on time which, apparently, was the hardest thing he had to do all year in maths class.

Why is it so hard for him to get a form signed? I don’t know where he gets it from.