Yesterday was the Fourth Anniversary of my break from the school where I taught for 22 years. There are still aspects of the life I left behind that I miss. I loved teaching math because there are so many ways to reach the same goal. Given one problem, each student might reach a solution through a variety of methods. I used to say learning math was like building a set of tools and then recognizing when each is useful.
Oh, this kind of problem. I think I will take out my Venn Diagrams. Or perhaps I can just write an expression. Then I will use fraction division.
If you have the tools at the ready, their usefulness becomes apparent.
Now, not all students enjoy the freedom of selecting their own method or "tools." I asked them frequently. There two extremes. At one end there were students who just wanted to know how to do the problem in front of them. At the other were the students who refused to proceed until they understood why a specific set of steps resulted in a desired result. The show-me-hows and the tell-me-whys. I loved teaching both kinds and everyone in between because they all taught me something new and that made my job more interesting and enjoyable and even easier as time went on.
And then there were the kids wanted nothing more than problems. Just give me a challenge. The Math Olympiad. The MathCounts team. My after school group. This was the most fun because I could identify with them. Did you ever try to do a crossword puzzle and have someone look over your shoulder and tell you an answer? I hate that. I want the satisfaction of doing it myself. That's what these kids were like. Hungry, curious, excited, and then even when out of frustration they were forced to give up, they wanted nothing more than to hear how anyone else did it. Their conversations with each other filled with half-finished sentences and partial thoughts.
I just put all the evens... Oh my god! What a good idea.
I realized if there were 10 ones, and 9 zeroes... Yes, then you could just multiply those.
I still love math puzzles. So much!
This is how I am with art now. I have an idea for something I want to make and then I try everything i can to get there. I don't want anyone to tell me how to make or do anything. I want to figure it out myself. I feel very fortunate to have this particular struggle.
11 hours ago