I was thinking on the drive in today how when I was in school I hated math. I was terrible at it. It scared me to some degree. I could not wrap my head around it. I, by all accounts, am someone who learns ‘visually’. What that means is that just reading it in a textbook doesn’t quite work with me. Regardless of what it is that I am reading I need to be able to visualize the end result and this was pretty difficult to do with a math textbook.
So it stands to reason then, that I grew up and became an accountant. Huh?
Yes, that is precisely what I did. Numbers are actually quite visually stimulating. It just depends on how you look at them. While doing math problems you can actually become a bit of a detective per se. Always trying to find the missing component or developing budgets that are actually realistic and plausible. Sounds a bit mundane I am sure. And while this is my current profession, I do believe I have few more professions up my sleeve.
When I first decided upon studying in this field, it was purely from a practical standpoint. I was a single mother and I needed to find a profession that was in demand. Computers were just coming into the workplace at that time and they were still very intimidating to me on a certain level. Accounting, I reasoned, would allow me to work in any industry. So I began my one year program and I worked extremely hard at it. We took a few computer programs and at that time you pretty much had to learn formulas that were a mile long on programs such as Lotus 1-2-3 (which was the precursor to Excel). If I thought that math had been a challenge this was shaping up to be a doozy. We took a computer programming class and funny thing is that I really began to understand the computer in all its complexity at that time. It is after all, fueled by humans. I actually did quite well in programming and then came Algebra. My biggest fear in all the courses I would be tackling.
I had an absolutely fabulous teacher. He wrote out every component of Algerbra across the blackboard. This to me was much like looking at Greek or trying to decipher Hieroglyphics.
With every component of Algerbra on the blackboard he explained quite simply each components roll. Then he removed one of the components and smiled at us.
“Your job is simply to find what is missing. Get to know what each component stands for and how they compliment each other and then when the problem is presented, you are simply looking for the missing piece.”
A light went off in the old grey matter. I had this visual form taking place. I could, in fact, give each component its own identity in my head and work from that and that is precisely what I did. And I passed with flying colours. The other thing that I was beginning to understand is that we all learn differently, some more so than others and that is one of the keys to succeeding academically. Understanding how you learn then utilizing that to its fullest.
Unfortunately many educators and institutions take on a rather linear approach to education. They have a set methodology and if you don’t conform to this you will not be very successful or you will find success much more difficult. During the formative years of education many schools work to have the child streamlined into a certain mindset of how to study. There should be ways of discovering how a child learns and I am sure there are. It is also true that many of the methods used, such as long division ( as an example), are truly redundant and serve little purpose other than to just confuse a child even further and it makes rather boring and tedious as well. Math classes are often the times when you will hear a child groan in dismay at the thought of a test coming up.
Actually, if I were teaching math today, I would make it extremely fun. I would make it a hunt. I would expose children to the visual aspect of mathematics that has served me so well, and continues to do so. I am actually incredibly good at my job. Excel is a fun program that assists me in finding out virtually anything. I never went to school for Excel. This was self taught. If I wanted to find out how to do something, or whether or not the program could do something, I simply sought out an online tutorial.
Education should stimulate and encourage free thinking and curiosity. Education should encourage debate. Education should be fun and it should be made clear that learning is an ongoing process throughout our lifetime. Educators should be providing the tools to assist the student in developing deductive reasoning, in discerning fact from fiction, implementation and cause and effect.
I don’t necessarily think that computers need to be used in early childhood education. A child needs to develop certain skills without the use of this tool. And that is all a computer is really. Just a tool. Yet we now seem to live vicariously through it. I am watching a generation that now communicates 75% of the time through this technology. They seem to be losing the capability of conversing with each other in conversation. They seem to be losing those skills. Do they know how to write by hand?
I watch young people in a cafe and they are sitting at a booth and they all have their Blackberry’s and iPhones and they are texting each other. They are not talking to one another. Occasionally they will and they will laugh and giggle. Then back to it they go.
I have watched young couples in a restaurant with devices in hand periodically exchanging a word. Why I wonder, do they bother to come out to a restaurant?
In any case, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I do hope we can get back to the lost arts of communication. We are, at the end of the day, only human after all.
Enjoy your day everyone.