First, a little context:
My granddaughter is über-prepared and excited to enter Kindergarten in a few weeks. Her 5th (unicorn-themed) birthday falls 22 days after the state cut-off date, so last May she had to demonstrate end-of-year proficiency in order to enter Kindergarten 22 days early. Yes, END of year. She is (without any bias whatsoever, right?) a happy, curious, enthusiastic learner. Like many kids, she’s a sponge, soaking up everything in her path, freakishly observant, perseveres like nobody’s business, memory like a steel trap. Sings at the top of her lungs, too. Just the other day, she was reminding me her bedtime was 8 o’clock and asked me what my bedtime was. I told her usually around 10, and she comes right back with, “That’s two minutes after my bedtime.” Not the right time unit, but definitely knew the difference was two. Damn, girl.
She also confided this little gem: “I hope we don’t have to do math in Kindergarten.”
Somewhere in her short life-time of learning, she has developed an idea of what “math” is, and she already dreads it. This is the girl who counts to 100 just for the hell of it, points out patterns she sees, and makes numerical comparisons. Her parents did not drill her with flash cards or give her a barrage of worksheets to complete; they merely helped her learn the language and meaning of numbers by counting with her—steps up to the top, apples on the page, carrots on her plate. Some other ideas, like patterns, developed in pre-school. Yet she does not want to do math in Kindergarten. Incredible. I was so floored I did not have the sense to ask her more about her concerns, a missed opportunity I hope to rectify soon.
Speaking of incredible, The Incredibles 2 was a summer movie that did not disappoint. There’s a connection here, trust me. (Small spoiler ahead. Skip a bit if you need to.)
In the movie, Mr. Incredible is trying to help his son, Dash, with his homework. Which homework? MATH, of course, and everybody is Super Frustrated. Dad wonders if new math has been invented since he was in school, and Dash informs him that he is not doing it the way the book says to do it.
Is this funny? Sort of, maybe, I don’t know. It IS definitely something that many (most?) people relate to, a shared, all-too-familiar reality, an inside joke. Oh, goodie; math, the dreaded subject that has the power to unite us through misery, generation after generation. Hahaha?
On the way home, my husband just knew I was going to
bitch about address that scene. If “doing math” is perceived as a frustrating, required chore in our culture, even to an almost five year old, doesn’t that say something is definitely NOT RIGHT and CHANGE is urgent? How can our culture jokingly, begrudgingly accept this as normal, even perpetuate it? If so many learners, from toddlers to great grandparents, from educators to policy makers, believe with conviction that “real” math is the drills/rules/tests/memorizing you do in and at school, (and you are either good/fast/smart/superior or bad/slow/stupid/inferior), while simultaneously denying “real-ness” to any mathematical reasoning beautifully and successfully applied outside —or even inside—school, doesn’t that scream volumes that something is MOST SERIOUSLY DEFECTIVE and EFFECTIVE TRANSFORMATION is effing imperative?
There’s plenty of resources and information available explaining to how we, as a society, evolved into this detrimental not-really-learning culture. You can’t blame kids or their parents; look at the learning experiences they have had! Unfortunately, there is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle going on with school and home experiences that is stubbornly impervious to healthier, alternative messages. Status quo is a powerful, yet strangely invisible super villain, my friends. MTBoS participants, Desmos, and Illustrative Math , are just a few of many top-notch super heroes fighting the good fight (FOR FREE!), but lets face it, many more are needed in order for new visions to gain a foothold and gather enough momentum to become the established, embraced norm in our schools, homes, and communities.
In an effort to arm myself with information and a vision and thoughtful strategies to BE THE CHANGE, a teaching friend and I have started reading Creating Cultures of Thinking. It inspires and resonates with me. FWIW, below are my take-away notes on the first two chapters. I happen to have time right now to process at this level, which feels luxurious and worthwhile and helpful.
I know you are busy because you’re educators, yet I invite and urge you read this book and examine your beliefs. This is a call to action, folks, worthy of your precious time. Please share your thoughts, insights, learning stories, and/or questions with me as you go, and if you are in a classroom (any content, any grade) describe the shifts you are consciously making and their impact on classroom and school culture. Involve others as much as you can, including me! If you live within driving distance (say an hour or so from Wilsonville, OR), I would be delighted to get a cuppa or glassa with you and dig into hidden messages and visible thinking.
Grab your cape and let’s go.
We must settle for nothing less!