If that sounds excruciating imagine that there were 20-ish people there with me - and we all found it exceedingly interesting. Note my choice of the word "exceedingly".
While it was truly helpful, and yes enjoyable, to come together with like-minded fellow teachers, we rarely cited a crucial pillar in the foundations of math, one that is crumbling away and threatening the integrity of our whole structure of public education.
Like the crumbling walls in Venice that threaten that beautiful city's economic integrity, this failing pillar of mathematical understanding is failing not only our schools but our communities and families.
That pillar is what I call "natural math".
Natural math is asking your child how many more broccoli trees he has to eat so he can get dessert if you said he has to eat 7 and he's only eaten 2 so far.
Natural math is posing the question to your 8-year-old daughter, how long will it take us to get to grandma's if we go 60 mph and it is 2 hours from here?
The truth of the matter is that this sort of "natural" talk just isn't natural to most people. But is is crucial to a young person getting acquainted and comfortable with math at an early age.
This reminds me of the foster parent ads that plead with us to take kids in - and we don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. Same here - we don't have to do math perfectly, but we do need to introduce it, and that would be so wonderful for young people to have that pillar in the foundation. So that later on in elementary, middle and high school, math isn't scary and foreign to our children.
Let's commit to talking naturally about math - as naturally as we can. In doing that we will lay the foundation of math and save the beautiful subject - and our beautiful children - from crumbling away into ruin.
Mark B. Anderson, founder & CEO of Strength in Numbers, Inc. is a former and current math teacher and tutor. Sandwiched by these two “tours of duty” in the classroom were nine years working in both small business and corporate finance. Strength in Numbers Tutoring specializes in making complicated high school math understandable to students of all academic levels.
Strength in Numbers, Inc. is the leading provider in supplementary educational services and products, including one-on-one tutoring, workshops for students and teachers, as well as print and online learning materials, currently specializing in high school math curricula and real-world personal finance training.