Math Recess: It’s A Book Of Hope and a Future We Will Build But Not See…
On April 5, I gave an IGNITE talk at NCTM in San Diego. It was about the lessons of zero.
The last remaining slides of the 300 second talk emphasized that the collective moral imperative in math education is to start again — from zero. Which implied that many of us in that room of 1000 people — including myself — will not be around for the long journey of reimagining and reconstructing math education.
The only thing that survives that long trek are ideas. Below was my second-to-last slide.
Math Recess is an idea whose time is nestled somewhere in the Louise May Alcott quote.
While the title of the book gets all the colorful attention — literally — the last word of the subtitle hints at the time line and trajectory of all the intentions, hopes, and dreams contained within in the book. That this book describes a world of math learning and teaching, heavily rooted in play, that doesn’t exist.
Parts of it do. But, the physical and philosophical structure of math education is not built for Math Recess. And while Math Recess will try to accommodate to the traditional infrastructure of math education, it will most likely need to build something entirely new.
Something that is a hybrid model of the most progressive ideas in education — student-driven, student-focused, values-based, project-based, SEL-based, and driven by play and equity. Luckily, the seeds of such kind of schools and educators have already been planted. They are organized in a group called PEN(Progressive Educators Network).
Looking at the vision of PEN and just the first sentence — transcends preparation for college and career — we can see this is aligned with the deepest ideas of Math Recess. Ironically, when public education first started in the US, this was the goal of math education — to have an informed and enlightened citizenry in a democracy. I also included one of the their Education Musts that really speaks to the heart of what we, Chris and I, believe about how the learning of mathematics should be based upon: the natural, emerging curiosities of children.
Chris and I are in constant communication about the book. These days, we talk about how overwhelmed and grateful we are for the response to the book. The book has not even been out one month, and already an enthusiastic Slow Chat for it has been initiated, organized, and sustained by Beth Maniaci, Margie Pearse, and Rebecca Lynn. As of this date, over 350 people have signed up for this leisurely Twitter discussion of the book!
That is mind-boggling for both of us, especially when we both believe that this book is the infancy of its own idea. Chris and I are currently in one of the 40 groups of nine(more will be added right up until May 29). We are excited that among this group are classroom teachers, administrators, college students, graduate students, researchers, and parents.
What we are also excited about is that we are all tied by the connective power/transmission of social media. We hope that you have lots of fun, and as the last chapter implies — make some new connections and friends:)
At the end of the proverbial day, it is the mathematics that binds us. Mathematics and mathematical thinking that delights and inspires us all.
I started my IGNITE talk with silence and a blank slide. I did so to illustrate one of the most beautiful and unheralded gifts of mathematics.
Chris and I are most excited — yes, most excited — about how little mathematics we know and can actually do. When you cannot solve a problem. When you have run out of ideas and strategies. When your brain has finally stopped working on the problem. That is when math gives you the gift of “Stillness”. Where you just gaze at the question in a quiet trance.
And, you move on to the next one. Both Chris and I have been fortunate to have had this experience many times.
Maybe they should rename math class “Failure Lab”, as was suggested to me by someone at my 2019 SXSWEDU workshop in Austin, Texas.
Well, for now, Chris and I would like to call it “Math Recess”. And, we are delighted that so many want to come play and share there thoughts and ideas with us.
Build it, and they will come. For Chris and I, we are more than okay with (Dream to) Build it, and they will come…
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
P.S. Our publishing/editing team is currently going through the book and making changes to typos/improvements to text/images.