Here’s a question for you: “What do you think is the most unpopular subject in school?” If you thought the safe answer was math, then you’d be right. According to numerous surveys, mathematics is easily one of the most disliked subjects in school, regularly scoring in the bottom three. I can certainly understand the sentiment. As a student, I didn’t like math much either.
Now, as an educator, I can see the inherent difficulties to teaching math to K-12 students. Kids often feel that math is both pointless and boring. It usually doesn’t play a big role in their daily life and lacks the flare of other disciplines. This can dampen their engagement and cause them to miss crucial knowledge that will ultimately help them in their learning journey.
This begs the question: How do we as teachers infuse curiosity and creativity into our math lessons?
The art of math
Imagine for a moment if we taught art the same way we taught math. We hand students a color-by-number worksheet and tell them which colors to use and where to place them. They turn one in, and we give them another. You can practically feel the imagination drain away just by reading those words. With math, worksheets can serve as helpful practice, but it doesn’t accentuate the subject’s creative potential or engage student interest.
Student attitude towards the subjects that we’re teaching matters. A recent Stanford University study found that “if you have a strong interest and self-perceived ability in math, it results in enhanced memory and more efficient engagement of the brain’s problem-solving capacity.”