Why do you go to work daily? Why are you good at what you do? Why are you reading this mathematics blog? Why are students engaged in some math lessons and not others? Why do some students do well in school while some fall behind? I’m going to leave you, the reader, to answer these questions for yourself, but I would like to introduce myself and tell you why I’m here at the AIMS Center doing math research with children.
My journey is quite different than most educators. I spent the first 17 years of my professional career working for a parcel delivery company. My college background was a mixture of engineering and business, but I did not obtain a degree. My wife and I had two children and were living comfortably due to the stability of the company, good pay, and the excellent benefits package. Without warning, my career came to a standstill due to health circumstances. Without giving more details on this, I knew at that point that I needed to make a career change. I decided to become a teacher! As far back as I can remember, there was always a little piece of me that wanted to be a teacher. I attended a small elementary school that had some very motivational teachers. In particular, my 4th and 5th grade teacher, Mr. Noel, made learning fun and seemed as if he really enjoyed helping kids.
In my return to college, I was really excited to learn about the teaching profession and get started in my new career. My parents had taught by example: if you are going to do something, do it with all your heart. So I did. Within just less than three years, I had obtained a B.A. and teaching credential. Less than a month later, I was offered and accepted a job teaching in my hometown.
Just like many teachers, I spent countless early and late hours creating math activities for my students. Yes, I had curriculum. Yes, I had access to worksheets and workbooks. Why did I choose to spend my own time creating lessons that were already provided? Why did I choose to spend hours working with students in after-school robotics and math programs?
Although I wasn’t an expert, my school administration gave me the flexibility and freedom I wanted to be creative and teach in the way I believe is most effective. The what of learning had been addressed thousands of times in countless pieces of curriculum and resources over hundreds of years. I felt that to create the right learning environment, my lessons needed to address the how and why students learn. When offered a position at AIMS, I accepted because I wanted time to dig into the minds of children. At AIMS, we are bringing about revolutionary change in mathematics education through a deep understanding of how children learn mathematics.
The next question is, “Why do they learn?” I have ideas. What about you?