Our expert talks: How can we make students passionate about Math?

By in Buzzmath-EN, Sunil's sandbox

Math can be endlessly fascinating! This is the subject of our expert Sunil Singh’s new article. If you have any questions or experiences you would like to share with Sunil, please do so in the comments section, and he will get back to you in his next video.

Nurturing a curiosity for math creates a passion for math!

One of the Facebook groups I belong to and encourage you to join if you are a teacher is the Mathematics Education Researcher group. Not only does it offer a wealth  of teaching strategies and resources, it also provides access to  a supportive and passionate community of leaders and learners. I often post  on this community, which often leads to very stimulating  conversations about math instruction.

My most recent post generated the most “Likes” I can ever remember a post getting. Although it made no direct mention of math, it had everything to do with learning it with authenticity and soulful awareness. The quote was from Paul Lockhart’s seminal book, A Mathematician’s Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Imaginative and Fascinating Art Form.

And, that is what we should be doing in our classrooms and in our school communities–teaching and nurturing a curiosity for the immensity of mathematics. However, the responsibility of captivating our children with numbers is on us. We must be smitten with mathematics first. That must be our endgame. Do not worry terribly about meeting checklist items of understanding, as deep understanding has a far better fate in an learning environment that is steeped in mutual joy and discovery. As I often say, if your love of mathematics is eclipsed by your ability in mathematics, then both will be doomed.

This past week I was invited to give a workshop to K to 8 Teacher candidates at Brock University. The theme of the inaugural conference was Math is a Verb. I told both the morning and afternoon session that the love of mathematics is the only way to learn mathematics in the future.

In many ways, I made an emotional plea not only for mathematics, but also to those who are entrusted with teaching students the intricate language of patterning, symmetry and algebra. Naturally though, I had to lead by example. I had to show the many places where we could find mathematics that is not just for comprehension, but for celebration!

Classrooms must be filled with questions, and not just answers. Questions should be raining in your classroom. Nothing should be obvious. Nothing should be initially clear. Being a mutual learner with your student and rediscovering–or even just discovering–simple mathematical truths will only make the soil for meaningful learning more fertile.

As Dan Finkel, founder of Math4Love and creator of the game Prime Climb, said in his brilliant TED Talk–The Joy of Math– “start with a question”. The answers to many of math’s challenging problems  always came much later–if it all.

Posing questions is not just good mathematical pedagogy, it is an intrinsic call to nurturing the curiosity in all of us! Curiosity is what makes us all great math learners–for life!

Sunil Singh,
Math Specialist and Buzzmath expert