Thinking outside the box
I believe it is important to realise that we have all got an innate ability to think creatively and this should be reflected in the education system as a whole. Robinson makes an interesting point when he demonstrates this using his example of the paper clip and kindergarten children.
He points out that from a young age we are divergent thinkers but then education is imposed on us as children and our ability to think creatively greatly decreases.
The education he is referring to has been passed down to children, through a historical foundation. A foundation which served a purpose at that time, a factory-like system. In effect the universal system of education for all is based on the old Victorian values. These values fitted the world in that period, when the structure of society was different and where there was a hierarchy class system which did not encourage children to think widely. There was a lot of rote learning meaning stimulation was very limited.
But now in a technological age, children’s senses are bombarded with new ideas, new ways of thinking and a rapidly changing world. However, they are still being channeled into a schooling system that fundamentally dates back to over 100 years ago.
I agree with the points that both Robinson and Boaler make – it’s time for an adjustment to our education system. To try and continue to educate people in a historical straight jacket is no longer appropriate.
In my opinion we should be encouraging children to explore their world using all of their senses and imagination to maximum capacity. The question is how do we do this as Mathematics teachers?
I think we should aim to move a child’s focus from the rote learning method and shift it towards an understanding of the Mathematics behind the formula.
In a simple Mathematical example, rather than telling students the formula for Pythagoras Theorem and asking them to accept it (as I was taught at school) we should be asking them to explore, show and prove. Through investigation, using as many platforms of learning as possible, they will gain a deeper understanding not only of the theorem but also of wider geometry and the patterns in the world that surround them. Robinson implies that if this approach is taken to widening children’s minds they will be able to be more engaged and there will be fewer cases of ADHD.
It is therefore a great shame that, as Boaler mentions, coursework has been removed from the current Mathematics syllabus. This appears to be a backwards step as it doesn’t allow for the deep exploration of the fundamental laws, upon which Mathematics is founded.
The challenge for us as Mathematics teachers is going to be how to get children to think outside the box within an education system that has not caught up with the 21st century – how are we going to do this and still satisfy the thirst for exam results and league tables?