It is 9:30 pm. A sixth-grader is curled around the pages of Harry Potter while his mother cajoles him to turn off the light. This youngster will apply his reading skills for the rest of his life. He will slay demons, travel to worlds real and fictional, and communicate with friends near and far – all through the gift of literacy. What will be his tangible rewards for developing strong sixth-grade mathematics skills? Is he, as an emerging young man, confident that math will play a meaningful role in his future? We, as educators, need to show students their true math powers at an early age. If we give them the chance, these youngsters can slay some big demons.
I am sitting on an airplane with the movie Footloose playing in the background. True to my nature, watching the movie makes me think about math education. In the film, teens are unhappy about rules and expectations imposed on them. In the math classroom, students are similarly unhappy with the requirements. Are there any real parallels here? Let’s see.