NPR on Teaching Math

by Kareem Carr

One of our earlier posts on the blog concerned how to deal with the all too common refrain, “I hate math.” A recent article posted on NPR discusses WHY people hate math. The culprit? According to the article, it’s the way it’s taught. The highlight of the article was the comparison between the teaching of mathematics and the teaching of music. It does make you think.

I think it’s easy to shift the majority of the blame to the way mathematics is taught. It probably is part of the problem. However, it seems unrealistic to hope most teachers of mathematics would be passionate about mathematics.

What little I know about the logistics of scaling things up from one person to several thousands, as one must in any national level teaching strategy, suggests that one often needs to create an approach that is independent of the charisma or personality of the workers involved. The average person is by definition, not especially charismatic or innovative. Otherwise, one needs some clever selection, recruitment and retention of these extraordinary individuals needed for one’s program.

However, don’t mistake my comments as a suggestion that things can not be improved. I am saying that I expect the road to improvement to be long, difficult and resistant to approaches that rely on addressing a single factor. Until then, we can expect to hear “I hate math” just a few more times.

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