I Love This TED Talk, But How To Pull This Off In Most Schools?

This 13 minute TED Talk from Dan Finkel, Founder of Math For Love and Doctor of Algebraic Geometry (that’s a thing? Cool.) pretty much encapsulates all that education in schools should be, no matter the subject. How to pull this off is another thing entirely, with our current classroom-teacher-student model plus state-imposed curriculum standards making it almost, but not entirely, impossible to accomplish. This is tragic and sad and just kinda makes me mad.

Summary for you lazy folks:

  1. Start with a question.
  2. Students need time to struggle.
  3. You are not the answer key.
  4. Say yes to your students’ ideas.
  5. Play!

Numbers 1 and 2 are eerily similar to Dan Meyer’s math teaching approach, and he’s internet famous for this stuff. What does that tell us about how obvious the direction is that we need to head?

Number 2 is what I yearn for most, and what I’ve found (Dan Meyer too) will light up and excite virtually any disengaged, pissed off, disruptive pain in your butt in your classroom.

But, sorry Common Core fans, when a long list of close-to-arbitrary content standards are required by law, how the heck can you provide 20 minutes per class period to let kids shout out their thinking when presented with a real-world question or problem to solve?

I desperately want this for kids. It’s what actual learning is. School stands in the way, and as I’ve said before, we know this. It’s upsetting how many of us know what we should be providing kids (who, just to reiterate, have almost no freedom in the school context) but we just sit back and fall into our tired pattern of complaints about what stands in our way.

Complaining is for amateurs. I’m ready to turn pro.

It remains to be seen whether or not we have the political and emotional will to drag the ship’s wheel back to where it’s always been for babies playing with sand for the first time or any other small child discovering _______ (insert new cool thing about the world).

Please, can we try again and again and not get discouraged until we get this right? Kids deserve it.

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