Maths is good for more than just mathy things

It might seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Maths is a thoroughly academic subject. It is rigidly structured, with non-negotiable content and methods that don’t usually allow much flexibility.

Because of this, it might often seem that Maths class is not the place for ideas and creative discussion. And that’s a bit of shame. Because that actually couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Maths is the perfect environment to foster creative solutions

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I’m sure you might need some convincing. I don’t blame you. It sure doesn’t seem like a creative subject. But it could be. It’s all in how the content is taught.

I hate rote learning

If a teacher is ever asked a question, the answer should NEVER be “Because that’s the way it is” or “Because I said so”. 

Curiosity is the mother of true learning. When a student asks me why something happens in a particular manner, I will always do my best to explain. And if I don’t know the answer, I will tell the student that I don’t know. And I will endeavour to find out the answer, as well as encourage them to seek out the answer for them self as well.

If a student asks a question that I can not explain without delving into content that they are not ready for, I will tell them that too. It will never hurt someone to be aware that there is more knowledge in the universe that they have not yet encountered.

If a student grows and learns not only how to do something, but also why they do it, then Maths becomes more than just memorising times tables or procedures. It becomes a creative process.

Use what you do know to solve what you don’t know

Every year, while teaching my students, I come across new problems that I’ve never seen before. It’s just the nature of Maths.

When these problems come up, the only thing I can rely on is my current understanding. But what makes these problems surmountable is the fact that I can explore my own understanding to build up a creative solution to a problem that would ordinarily be too difficult to overcome.

This skill flows through Maths, but also through many other aspects of life.

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From one thing, know ten thousand ~ Miyamoto Musashi

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Nothing like a good old Japanese proverb, right?

Creative problem solving is definitely the way of the future

The future will be paved by people who can use what we have now to solve the problems of the future.

I’m not here to say that Maths itself is going to solve all the world’s problems (although you’d be surprised how often it pops up)

But the people who learn to creatively solve problems, within a set of restrictions imposed upon them by the world, and using only the tools already at their disposal; they will be the ones who lead us forward.

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