Making Math Easy (Part 3)


The orange line circles the limbic system, cerebellum and brain stem. These are the brain structures we use when we are stressed. During these moments, less activity goes on in the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for thinking, reasoning, decision-making, problem solving, and other processes involved in learning.

When I told them about classes ending this month, one learner gave a cry of dismay. There are other classes and programs throughout the city, I noted.

"I know," said another, "but its really, really hard to find a math teacher who's so..."

And here I anticipated the familiar praises (which, apparently, I heap upon myself) ... so good at explaining math ... so good at making things simple ... so good at breaking things down into little steps ... so good looking... and taller than you'd think...

"non-judgmental."

say what?

Well, yes. Of course. This is red brain / green brain stuff. You know - human brain vs. lizard brain.

Hmm... that's hopelessly metaphoric, isn't it. It has to do with a speech Fraser Mustard gave a decade ago out in Saskatchewan (I think - I saw the video).

I can change the metaphor if you want, and say our conversations with the world are either open or closed. Since I started hanging with people who are all about Quantum health and autopoietic stuff and Neuro Linguistic Programming and similar voodoo, I've been saying "in growth" and "in protection". The point is the same.

When you're scared or angry, you don't learn well or easily - your physiology won't allow it.

(By the way, Denny Taylor has a bit on this in Spin Doctors, though she doesn't draw it fully out, relating how tightly prescribed pre-school curriculum and related behaviour and discipline problems compare badly with child-centered play-based learning programs.)

Anyway, the point is that, for this learner and the ones who agreed with her, math difficulties were mostly about fear - fear of being judged, mocked, punished.

Maybe the problem with math is never fractions or algebra or integers. Maybe it's always other people, and what they might think and say and do.

A learning place is a safe place, or it isn't a learning place at all.




um... sorry 'bout the whole 1950s nuclear family there.


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