Some of you have heard this story already this week (or heard my opinion briefly if you are friends with me on Facebook), but I haven’t been able to shake the thoughts quite yet.
I was watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire earlier this week. It was a couples version for either soon to be or newly married couples. One of their questions was (I’m paraphrasing a bit and I don’t remember EXACTLY) if you are building a pyramid with a 5×5 block base and each layer decreases by one block per side length until the peak, how many blocks are in the pyramid.
Now, if you have ever used Dan Meyer’s Three Act Math tasks you may be familiar with the Amazing Watermelon task. This task shows a clip of teams from The Amazing Race having to build a pyramid of watermelons that starts with a 10×10 base and utilizes perfect squares all the way to the top. This is one of my favorite activities and tasks to do with my 6th graders…they love it and no matter their readiness levels can all access the problem and feel success.
Back to my frustration. Upon hearing the problem, the couple responds way to quickly with “we will ask the audience, we are not math people.”
THIS IS ONE MY LEAST FAVORITE PHRASES. I get so frustrated when people use this phrase as a way to get out of being a problem solver– our students hear adults use this phrase all the time and we have to stop. By saying this, we are giving our kids permission do, say and feel this same way, and we can’t accept that. Am I asking everyone to love math — of course! Just kidding — I know we all have our interests, our passions, our strengths and our weaknesses. They make us who we are and that is 100% okay!
That being said, I am a horrible speller and I do my best to remember correct grammar rules. I COULD consider myself “not a spelling/grammar person (my students will be the first to tell you they have to correct my spelling sometimes)”. But does that mean I will never write anything because I dislike spelling or have to take some extra time and effort to look over my work or use my resources to spell and write correctly. Of course not. How would I be successful in life if I never wrote.
We have to change this mindset of “not being a math person.” If it is not okay to avoid writing because I struggle with spelling, It shouldn’t be okay for people to avoid problem solving and math because they don’t think it is their strength.
This is why being a problem solver is such a vital skill. Being a mathematician is so much more than memorizing formulas and being able to quickly compute the sum, difference, product or quotient of numbers. To be a mathematician you have to be a problem solver and you CAN take your time in doing so. You CAN be a problem solver who CAN’T solve every computation problem in three seconds or less. This is a perfect transition into what my first “blog series” is going to focus on. One of my FAVORITE topics (because let’s be honest, I’d rather write about what I love than phrases that drive me crazy) the 8 Mathematical Practices.
After a lot of thinking and discussions with some of my colleagues (and friends) I feel very passionately about sharing what I know (and the wonderful resources where I learned it) about the 8 Mathematical Practices. I have my first post almost solidified (Math Practice 1- Making sense of a problem and persevere in solving them) and am looking forward to sharing it with you all.
In the meantime — continue encouraging your students to be problem solvers so when they are on Who Wants to be a Millionaire one day, I don’t have to get mad at them for asking the audience about a question a class of 11 and 12 year olds could figure out!