Get Your Students Thirsty for Math

Many of you read the Is Calculating Math? post last week and are now considering what can you do to bring Math back into your classroom. There are so many resources out there to get students thinking mathematically. What does it mean to think Mathematically? Every student is different and we need to take that into account. Is our goal just to teach a canon of concepts or to inspire students to look at the world with the eyes of an artist? I think it is a little of both.

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences refers to 9 various intelligences which describe a student's strengths and preferred method of learning. If we look at the logical-mathematical sphere of intelligence it refers to quote:

Less emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more on reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations.

I believe all students are capable of enjoying these aspects of life and our universe and so in addition to the standard curriculum, wherever possible, I provide my students opportunities to explore.

One great resource that I have come across is James Tanton. His website provides a lot of great resources and ideas about math and how to make concepts more easily understood. Many teachers do not know the reasons behind why they do certain things in math and this can frustrate students when they want to understand. Mr. Tanton's resources and books are more conversational and geared towards students and teachers reading them for enjoyment and explanation. For example, here is a great free guide and resource about Quadratics.

I really enjoy using Math without Words and examples from Solve This. The post that inspired me to  check out these resources came from this Math Mama Writes blog post. In the post you can see some examples and see why my students and I were so excited about it. Every time I use one of these resources I seem to hook one more student into realizing that math is fun. The coveted, "Wow, this is really interesting" to the student who is working on a Kakuro puzzle you gave them after school for fun.

We can have the best teachers in the world, but if the students are not enjoying themselves then they will not be receptive to learning. In We Make The Road by Walking, Myles Horton is asked to comment on education as related to the quote, "you can lead a horse down to water, but you cannot make him drink." His response was:

This is a problem they deal with in academia by hitting the horse over the head and beating on him till they force his nose in the tub, and just to keep the blows from continuing, he'll try to drink. My system is to make him thirsty, so he'll volunteer to drink.

If you can get your students thirsty for math, they will be able to learn anything because they have motivation.

Updated: After writing this post, I received an email from with a link about 20 Incredible Math Ted Talks some of which I had seen before and some I had not but they are a really good list. It is important to keep learning all of the time so you can answer student's questions. Not just the ones about how to solve problems, but why and what makes math interesting.

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