Thursday, September 13, 2012

Math Wizards? Really?

Creative Commons Image: Wizard 1 by Brenda Starr
Today in class as I was delivering a basic lesson on how to find percent to my grade 9 class (which should have been a review), one of the girls blurted out "Are you a math wizard?". I had a bit of a chuckle, said "No, I'm just a math teacher." and then tried to figure out what she meant. I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she then said "No, like do you spend hours at home at night trying to figure this stuff out so you can teach it to us?". I explained that I had been doing this for a long time and that perhaps that's why it looked easy for me.

 I spent much of the rest of the day wondering what would cause a 14 year old to see the work we were doing as wizardry. What kind of disconnect exists between her world and the grade 9 math curriculum? Are there more students that see mathematics as mystical? How do I break down this belief that there is something magical going on in my class? I think I need to work at showing my students that mathematics is cool, interesting and useful but that there is nothing magical about it.

If students are going to insist that mathematics is magical then somehow I have to get them to believe that they are the wizards in training. Maybe I should play it up and develop different levels of wizardry as we progress. Perhaps I should have a sign outside my room that reads something along the lines of "Hogwarts Academy of Mathematical Wizardry". If you have a better idea for a name please share it.

By some weird coincidence, this afternoon one of my grade 12 students also asked if I was a wizard. I think he was mostly joking but what a day to joke about it. Did I miss a recent release of a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movie or something similar?

If you have any suggestions for naming the new academy or if you have any suggestions about how I can show my students that mathematics is not wizardry please share in the comments.