How to Learn Math, Here We Go Again

Category: Unexpected Encouragement

Really, that’s what always happened to my train traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles. It left Baltimore at 4:00 pm on a Thursday and traveled South at 40 mph until it reached the Rockies. That’s Lake Rockie right there… ahem.

If you know me, you know I’m stubborn uh, persistent and that because of errr - in spite of this thoroughly excellent character trait I was a top-notch failure in math class. Well take this: I am really enjoying the Stanford University OpenEdX course How To Learn Math. It’s a cool pre-course intended for parents, teachers and others with contact to children and young people learning math.

I know. That’s not me, but (shhhhh) I’m sitting in the back and being verrry quiet.

The first set of lectures and thought-problems have centered around discouragements and math stereotypes that are deeply integrated into our society through the way we think and talk about mathematics. What’s cool is that based on the information and ideas that Professor Jo Boaler gets from this course, she will be developing a course for students who want to improve their math-learning skills. I think that is extra high class and when I was a student, I would have been relieved to know that help was on the way; that twenty thousand (mostly only slightly disturbed) ex-math students were, as we speak(!), combining their creative What-If imaginations to help me learn math better.

That would have freaked me out in the very best way possible.

The (minor) psychological tics I acquired in 9th grade Algebra are healing. Taking part in a course actively searching for ways to avoid scarring creative young minds is making me wildly happy - as if all that struggle was worth it after all - just like Dad said it would be - except that I think he meant he wanted to see something besides an “F” on my grade card.

I’m taking the philosophical out: Maybe, just maybe flunking Algebra has helped to make me an A-grade human being. Yeah.

The course is available until 27 September, 2013 and is self-directed so you can start anytime. I have to finish by the end of August though because then it is that ModPo time of the year. It needs a little jingle, in my mind it has become a season of its own and I’d no sooner miss it than I would Autumn.

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