“When will I ever use this?”

It’s been a while since I’ve been on for many reasons, one being school. Obviously it is something important to me and something I need to encourage others to take as important since that will be my profession sooner or later. There were a lot of topics I wanted to write about the past couple weeks. I was going to talk about a new school system called Gateway. I was also going to mention a new fad called a “flipped classroom” (I will talk about that eventually). Did you hear about the ACT law that may be passed in Minnesota Schools (if it wasn’t already). There also was an idea of social media and why our generation is so fascinated about it. Is there a competition to get the most likes on Facebook? If you don’t get at least 10 retweets do you delete your tweet because no one thought it was funny. Get off your attention high and utilize those networks for something a little more useful. Well some of you might be asking, “Why the hell are you writing a blog?” Good question. I like to write. And you’re not going to hear that from a math major too often.

What I really want to talk about is a question that bugs the hell out of me, but it’s something that I can totally relate to. “Teacher. When will I ever need to know this?” That is it. That is why educators are supposed to be in the classroom right? The student has every right to know what the heck they are learning. Relating the material to students’ interests and every day life is why we should be in the front of the classroom. Wait, I should rephrase that. Should we be at the front of the classroom? Should we just open up the students’ heads and pour the quadratic or distance formula in like water in a Black and Decker? It seems so obvious when I write it but in practice it may be a lot tougher than we think. If students are constructing their own knowledge then they can easily relate it to what they want. Students in today’s society are relying on teachers too much. With my experiences facilitating learning at the University of Minnesota (notice facilitating learning) all of the students look at me when they have questions. Why? Because that is what they are raised doing. That is a perfect time for them to turn to their classmates and rely on their colleagues for help. I can direct them to a resource, but I don’t just give them what they need. Then they are not learning, but memorizing. A professor I work for told me a week or so ago, “Don’t be a sage on the stage, be a guide on the side.” It is our job to eliminate the current system and let the students create their own system. I guess I kind of am talking about Gateway indirectly.

I am having a similar issue to this with the courses I am required to take. I haven’t taken a course I will be teaching in about 2 years. Why do I have to take the theoretical mathematics courses talking about isometries and Barycentric coordinates when high school students will not come close to talking about those in their K-12 education. I am taking an optional course that will have a much larger impact on my career than my 5000 level math courses. So I can relate to the students asking why they need to take a math course if they are a design or psychology major. The critical thinking in math courses is crucial to everyday life. When we look at a paragraph on words and have to figure out an equation, how can that relate to anything. I just want to find out what the hell ‘x’ is and be done with it. Well to start, students need to interpret the wording, determine what they are even looking for (not just a letter), formulate an equation, and relate it to the word problem. In a sense, they are answering their own question of when they will need to know the material. Every problem can be turned into a word problem and vice-versa. I know I have been rambling my thoughts because I am really just procrastinating on learning about those isometries I was talking about earlier. I’ll get to the point of the whole guide on the side thing.

When students are creating their own system of learning and essentially creating their own curriculum with our ‘guidance’ then they can answer their own question. “When will I ever need to know this.” That’s when we, as facilitators to the students learning, respond: “You tell me.”

Follow me @MichaelTKlein or on linkedin because if I don’t get to a certain amount of followers I’ll just delete them.

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