Killing Creativity: No More

Posted by Glen on Jan 31, 2016

Can it be?! Maths can be a creative subject?!

Now before you scoff hear me out, Lockhart argues that maths is indeed a subject for the creative type, full of patterns and designs that are akin to the notes that form the crescendos of beautiful music (Gustav holst’s Jupiter for me) and the brush strokes of true masterpieces (Van Gogh’s Sunflowers) and we’re stifling that creativity more than ever in the way we that teach students today.

Now as  students of mathematics, and as trainee teachers, I think it’s a safe bet to assume we are all in some way or another passionate about maths, but the real question is how can we evoke that passion, that beauty for the contradictory simplicity and complexity of numbers that form our teachings and more importantly everyday lives, in our students?

Through the rigidity and structure of the classroom we’ve ignored the very voice we need to listen to the most, the students. Maths needs to become a subject that allows for creativity and growth, through rigid rule based learning that we’ve allowed the reenforcement of the very instrumental learning we are so desperate to escape from.

Ken Robinson explores the argument beautifully, by arguing that globally the education system is built upon an outdated industrial dogma that rewards success in employable areas and berates those that make mistakes. We have an education secretary right now in the UK that’s advocating students pick STEM subjects for further education, as they are the most employable. The most senior politician for education, the supposed expert of teachers and the education system is telling students to pick subjects that get them jobs, not subjects they will enjoy.

Now this isn’t to say that you can’t pick a STEM subject, by all means if you love it then do so, but for us to be successful teachers we need to move away from presenting subjects as employments routes, and instead different channels of life they can explore at their hearts content. How can we possibly call ourselves teachers if we can’t provide creativity in the classroom? If we can’t spot the next great artist/politician or mathematician how on earth can we be called “good teachers”?

The solution is in the TED talks, a place where the worlds teachers gather to discuss creative and innovative ways to engage students of tomorrow for a world we can’t predict. Give teachers the flexibility to provide students with an education they need, but more importantly one that’s different and creative, give students a bigger voice in how lessons should be run and most importantly let students decide for themselves what they want to do,  without the influence of careers/lifestyles when we simply can’t guarantee it’ll be the same when they get there.

One final thing, thing country is faced with a national teaching shortage, particularly in maths and other STEM subjects, maybe this is because students have become so disillusioned with maths, that it’s a challenge to teachers, or maybe it’s because we’ve enforced a doctrine on teaching that’s so strict we can’t explore maths in an engaging and creative manner.

intelligence may be the thing we pride the most, but to me from now on creativity is the highest form of intelligence.


  1. Laura
    6 February 2016

    A good piece Glen. I think there are some interesting points here, however I wonder if there would be a “mass abandonment” of maths as a choice if students were given the option of whether or not to take it. Would this end up being problematic for society? Are we just then delaying the need for mathematics reform?

  2. pepsmccrea
    8 February 2016

    Great thinkpiece, and super comment question from Laura. Lots to think about and figure out before next year!

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