Monday, April 29, 2013

When will I use this in real life?

As a math teacher, this is a question I field from students almost daily.  You have probably had to answer it or a question like it, no matter what subject you teach.  I am sure that this question is not asked only in math class, but at times math skills can be especially difficult to connect to a student's everyday world.  Here is a pretty complete answer that I want to give, but have trouble forming in the moment:

"You won't.  You probably will never have to factor a quadratic expression in your life after your college math course.  However, this skill is necessary for doing all the other stuff we have to cover in this class, which is necessary for you to do well on your ACT and SAT, which are necessary for getting into a good college.  Math teaches you to think and problem-solve.  Don't focus so much on how you will use each of these individual skills.  The more important skill you are learning is critical thinking.  In addition to this, math opens up many career opportunities for you.  Stick with it now so that you do not close doors to the future that you might wish were open to you once you head off to college."

I agree with everything in this explanation.  The problem with it is that my students tune me out after the first sentence: You won't.  I am challenging myself to find an inspiring approach to answering this question before it gets asked.  I challenge you to do the same.  No matter what your subject, material must be connected to your students' lives in order for them to be motivated and to fully understand the concepts.

Here are my thoughts about meeting the challenge.  I want to hear yours!  Please comment.

1. I need to learn as much as I can about the careers that use my subject matter.  Who do I know that uses my subject?  What can I learn from them to pass on?  Would that person be willing to speak to my class?

2. Drawing connections with the "real world" is well worth the time.  Many times the question gets asked in the middle of note-taking and I don't feel that I have time to answer it well.  Maybe I can purposefully fill those extra minutes at the end of class  (see previous post) with talk and/or videos about math careers that fit with the current unit.

3. I would like to answer the question before it gets asked.  These connections should be integral to my lesson plans, rather than haphazard replies.  

4.  The internet can provide a wealth of inspiring answers to the question.  Here is a great video from a website I need to explore more:

As you look over your lesson plans this week, take an extra moment to add significance to your content.  Remember that you are not making this up!  The connection exists, but as teachers it is our job to sell it.  Try it, and see what you can learn.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! Great video too. I'm usually the guy who gives the long answer from paragraph 2. Especially after reading "How Children Succeed" by Paul Tough, it really brings it home that school is less about the material and more about the ability to learn the material.