Several of my colleagues are wearing buttons that say “Why?” — and you may well wonder why. No, they’re not disaffected teachers who are questioning authority. Au contraire, they are the authority…and they want us to help each kid understand why s/he is doing what we ask them to do. How refreshing. How revolutionary!

Fortuitously, a recent blog post by a disgruntled teacher who always does challenge authority, one who recently retired from a long career in the New York City public schools and is now teaching in a public college, asks this question. This understandably anonymous teacher says that her former department head (“AP” in New York Public Schools jargon, presumably because all department heads are designated assistant principals?) “told  us to never to use the word ‘why’ in class.” In welcome contrast, read her concluding paragraph:

The math they learn in my classroom will probably be long forgotten by the time they graduate and go on to careers in their chosen areas (unless of course it is an area that requires math) but I am convinced the “why” will be a lesson never lost.  Understanding reasoning is the first step in solving problems in any area, whether it be academics or life.
 She may be disgruntled, but these comments are spot on.

Categories: Math, Teaching & Learning