Creativity takes courage!!!

Posted by Emma on Feb 1, 2016

Before starting this course, I would not have described maths as particularly “beautiful” or as a “creative art”. However, the more I read about maths and education, and the more maths that I experience, with an awareness of the importance of understanding, the clearer it is that this is the case. I find it sad that only through partaking in an SKE that the richness of the subject and its imaginative and inspiring traits are revealed to me; that through thirteen years of education this was not apparent. While Skemp would argue that this is because I was taught instrumentally at school and since starting the course more of a relational understanding has been uncovered, I think Lockhart is also right that it’s more than this. That students are being deprived the complexity and depth of the subject. Taking Jo Boaler’s views one step further, he argues that mathematics is an art, but that our culture does not recognise this. This makes me wonder whether the problem lies not with the curriculum, or the school system but with society (wow… how do we even begin to address this !?). So not only students but everyone (minus a lucky few) are being denied the chance to be inspired by maths and to experience ‘creative frustration’ which makes maths such an engaging subject.

Sir Ken Robinson addresses the way in which children’s creativity is squandered as they pass through the education system. Through the stigmatisation of mistakes, students are afraid to be wrong which means they are incapable of creating original ideas. This is in line with what Lockhart is arguing, speaking about maths in particular, that students should be allowed to be wrong and creatively frustrated. Robinson also states that there is also the problem of individuals who possess creative talent being persuaded by society that they have none as it currently is unvalued in the current system. He argues that richness of human capacity is being heavily underrated and ignored, that this conception needs to change and rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our future with. Society at the moment is being short-sighted and instead needs to education students for a future that is unpredictable and unimaginable.

Lockhart’s and Robinson’s grand ideas are fabulous. But I fail to see under the current system how we would even begin to device such a learning of maths. There would be a complete lack of standardized testing and I know that Lockhart believes that this doesn’t matter, but I think it’s natural for parents and educators to want to be able to gauge how well a child is grasping a subject. After all, how would we as teachers know which students needed extra support? It just strikes they are constructing problems rather than providing us with an implementable solution. I am now confused about what difference I can make in terms of the current school curriculum. Also whether teacher training itself is an issue which needs to be addressed?!


  1. Kkay
    5 February 2016

    Am in agreement with your comment’s becoming more and confusing. Which direction should we take as trainees, now knowing that what we thought was mathematics is just a shell of the whole mathematical process. Since we shall be guided by the very same unnecessary curriculum, are we going to follow the masses to keep status quo?

  2. Laura
    6 February 2016

    Emma, I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who finds their passion for our beautiful subject to be a little appreciated thing and am a little overwhelmed with the thought of what to do about it.
    The only think I know for sure is that it won’t be an easy fix. It seems our entire education system has tried so simplify and water down the subject to the point beyond recognition or enjoyment.

  3. marcus
    7 February 2016

    I completely agree that perhaps we have reached a point where the problem lies within the society that we have created! And you’re right, how do we even start to rectify that?

    Some of the points you have made are really interesting and have made me think further into the ideas presented by Robinson and Lockhart. I really like how you’ve linked to previous articles too!

  4. pepsmccrea
    8 February 2016

    Excellent series of links made here between the articles explored, as well as ideas from previous thinkpieces. However, there are definitely details to be worked out regarding how to put this approach into practice

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