Friday, September 9, 2016

Just Thinking

Jennifer, a math teacher at the local high school, said that the first chapter in her new curriculum is on transformations.  I probably won't use any transformations today, at least no in the form of equations or graphs.  I will use it on the computer today by clicking on some screen or picture or text and moving it to another part of the page.  Or by swiping an icon on my cell phone.  I may use other transformations by zooming in on an image, changing the text size, reversing the direction of an image or distorting an image in Photoshop.

But who cares after I can drive a car without knowing how the motor works or why we use one type of oil instead of another.  Just as long as it works.

However, someone does need to know how all this works so I can do it without knowing how it works.  But, not most of us.  The argument continues to go both ways.  Is it important to teach transformations to everyone?

Of course, I have always enjoyed math and continue to read books about math for pleasure and relaxation.  I also read them because I have to think new thoughts or rethink thoughts from decades ago.  Which brings me to another reason for reading about math, it requires my brain to physically create new paths stimulating the cells and keeping me sharp.

Many years ago, several decades ago as computers were emerging and finding their way into schools, there was a turtle, or at least that's what they called the little triangle on the green screen.  The program was Logo.  The user, typically a student, could type in commands to move forward, change directions and repeat previous steps and the turtle would move about the screen.  It was simple, so simple that I considered fun but a waste of time.  Now these decades later it is recognized and one of the best activities to stimulate thinking--critical, creative, logical.  Today's equivalent is coding and many other programs.

So what do we have?  A simple essentially useless program that promotes creative, critical and logical thinking, and more, I suspect, because this list is probably not inclusive.  This are all skills needed in daily life.  I will use them frequently today as I garden, cook, build a shadow box, write and respond to emails, even if there's no turtle or commands to move forward involved.  So why study transformations?  It makes us think.  Once we learn to "think" we go on to "educate" ourselves by accumulating "knowledge" through "remembering" facts.

Education, from me, doesn't come from a teacher teaching us, it comes from learning what the teacher puts before us.  It's not memorizing facts and testing our memory through multiple choice questions.  It's a daily activity of questioning, solving, creating, repeating and expressing, and more because this list is not inclusive either.  While I can do this all myself in seclusion, I like the stimulation of others and the guidances of teachers to save me time and let me move on to more thinking.  And so I will.

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