I started this blog to talk about math in general and math education in particular. Specifically, if you plug “we hate math” into Google, you get over 200,000 results. For a society that depends on math and science, this is not a good thing.
A couple of years back, when I was teaching a remedial math class to college freshman, I tried to figure out why so many people struggle with math. My current theory is that we introduce students to math (via arithmetic) in a way that doesn’t play to our strengths as humans. Let’s face it, humans in general aren’t very good at clerical work (which is what arithmetic is at its heart) which is why our early school years are spent memorizing all sorts of rules and multiplication tables and so forth.
What humans are really good at is pattern recognition and analysis. We’ve honed this skill over the course of tens of thousands of years and it’s the most highly developed part of our brains. This is ironic because math is essentially using numbers (and arithmetic as our fundamental toolkit) to draw patterns from the universe around us and should be incredibly interesting and intuitive for us. But we get so beaten down by the years of rote memorization and recitation of our arithmetic classes that most of us get turned off of numbers completely before we’re out of high school.
So I’d like to use this blog to try to talk about how we can make math more accessible and interesting. I’ll try to keep the ‘nerd factor’ to a minimum but I’ll provide links for additional exploration for those who want to expand their horizons.