Meraki [may-rah-kee]

meraki [may-rah-kee] (adjective) This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.

Do you love your work? Is it more than just a job? The above word (as defined in Christopher J. Moore’s book “In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World” perfectly describes how I feel about my work. That is not to say that the work is not difficult or that it doesn’t sometimes cause me stress. I specifically chose the word work rather than job because the work that I do is much bigger than just a job.

The work I do is rooted in the belief that children are rational beings that have complex ways and means of operating mathematically. Sometimes children are criticized or even punished for their ways of operating, and their ways are identified as “wrong” or as “misconceptions.” But children perceive mathematical situations differently than adults, and that does not preclude those perceptions from being meaningful and powerful. The process of coming to understand number is far more sophisticated than adults may realize.

My work for the past three years has been learning more about how children construct their ways and means of operating mathematically. Historically, school mathematics has been conceived of in terms of how adults understand mathematics. It has been the mission of my work to understand more about how children learn and to help teachers understand those ways as well. By learning to view the mathematics from the eyes of the student, teachers can interpret the student actions and make significant decisions in adapting their instruction to the mathematics of the student.

What could be more important than starting young children off in an educational system that believes in their thinking and values their contributions to the learning environment? I am so honored to contribute to an educational model that believes in opening doors and opportunities and maximizing students learning potential. We can create opportunities for students to modify, reorganize, and enlarge their mathematical concepts just by placing more value in their thinking. This values not only their mathematical thinking but also the culture and context in which it was constructed.

What do you do with heart? Do you leave a little of yourself in your work? I hope your answer is “yes.” Please write to me below and tell me why you engage in the work that you do?

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