# Why I Am Walking Away From Mathematics Education — It’s A Toxic Relationship.

*Last week, I met with my kindred-soul spirit, Nadia Abdelal, a feisty maths educator in Melbourne, Australia. A Maths Symposium she has been tirelessly organizing has been postponed to July 2025 — for reasons that are, at least, tangent, to me exiting mathematics education.*

*Curiosity for mathematics has been put to sleep by mathematics education. It’s, however, going to be woken up out of its slumber vigorously next year!*

*I thought I would share Nadia’s own reflection about this blog upfront. It encapsulates that my transmission of the essence of it was, at least, received by a person I hold in high regard for having integrity and passion for content-driven/student-centered mathematics education.*

So here goes nothing…

I quit teaching in 2013 for my mental health. In 2017, Canada’s largest newspaper published my Op Ed about it.

I am now quitting math education — again, for my mental health.

Let me be clear, I am leaving the space of math education because of its current state of political/profit-driven rot, that for me, is untenable.

We are nowhere near celebrating the simple joy of mathematics that I fondly remember when I started teaching. We are now celebrating the joy of using mathematics to make ourselves popular, to put our faces — literally — ahead of the face of mathematics.

We aren’t selling mathematics. We are selling ourselves.

I live and breathe mathematics. It’s the only thing I know how to do. In the world of math education, you would think not only should that be more than enough, that it should be the raison d’être tattooed to the figurative body of it.

It’s not. Shakespeare could not have penned a greater tragedy. As such, I am the *Fool*. Sure, I am here for some comic relief. But, I am also here to impart my wisdom of being in this space for 25 years, and written three books about mathematics — happiness, play, and curiosity were the themes.

**All dead themes**. If you think they are alive in math ed, you’re bullshitting yourself. But, you may not be alone, as I think a lot of people are selling *Flea market mathematics at Harrods prices*.

In 2024, I don’t belong in math education. Philosophically and financially. There’s no money to be made selling mathematics. As absurd as that sounds, it’s the indisputable truth. Look at the climate. It’s all Science of Bullshit stuff. Attaching any word like “Reading or Math” after Science doesn’t make it science.

It makes it a brand. A brand that is repackaged shit from the 20th century from authoritarian white educators. The section which showed pictures of all the people behind The Science of Math — I can’t type it without generating new bile to start traveling up my esophagus — has been taken down. Of course it has. It was only white educators. Not a person of color to be found.

It’s all about delivery now without a care in the world of what is being delivered. Just look at social media. Except for the likes of a few, people are posting the most banal mathematics, wrapping it up in overbaked pedagogy, and calling it a day. The common factor of people who get excited about such is that they all get paid.

No student is getting out of bed for pedagogy. Well they are — because they have to. Tell me again how mathematics education is battling math alienation/anxiety/trauma?

Hello? Math education = math anxiety. I doubt anyone had math anxiety prior to formal education.

That’s because slow failure was the romantic path of its thematic development. School? Fast success through compliance and control.

That’s all on a good day. On a bad day, it’s just selfie after selfie after selfie. One more day of mathematics being shaded into obscurity — a fate that nobody of my generation could have predicted.*The whiteboard has become more important than what’s on it.* We’re not building thinking classrooms. We’re building *marketable *classrooms.

Bad lesson plans and horrible worksheet type problems have been given new life because of it.

Teacher: Hey kids, who wants to factor trinomials?

Kids: (crickets)

Teacher: Hey kids, who wants to factor trinomials…on a whiteboard!!?

Kids: (still crickets) but now standing in an upright position.

I had kids walking around in my classes in the last century — other teachers did as well. We just didn’t codify it. Why would we? The mathematics always was the star of the show. Not the chalkboards. Not me.

The mathematics. It feels like an act of rebellion to do mathematics anymore. And, if you and your students are not experiencing the following reactions/emotions to doing mathematics, well, umm, you’re not doing mathematics. You’re aping mathematics. The same aping I did in calculus. It took me almost ten years of teaching calculus to finally feel comfortable teaching it.

By avoiding doing mathematics with gleeful struggle — historic, I might add — we are engaging in intellectual dishonesty.

That’s why mathematics is dead. Curiosity it for it has evaporated and interest in doing it *ourselves*, to be once again(if we even were) lost, confused, disoriented, etc.

Just the other day, I withdrew my accepted proposal for CMC-South. It was on Data Science. The only that I really wanted to speak about, was unsurprisingly rejected — even though it was a keynote for the Annual Math Conference in Wisconsin.

So was this one, which will be an Opening Keynote in 2025 for a Mental Health Summit in Banff, Alberta.

Irony doesn’t begin to describe what’s happening — *not happening *— here.

Math education has abandoned any idea of mathematics involving awe, joy, wonder, curiosity — which is related to positive mental health.

Math education lives in a grifting bubble, oblivious to the two most important issues that impacts any of its true success — student mental health/suicide prevention and teacher retention.

Who the fuck would want to be a mathematics teacher in 2024 in the United States? Crappy pay and even crappier mission. Gen Z are not signing up. They are mission driven and motivated by that. Throw in horrible pay, and you can start writing the death certificate for math education.

Rome is burning. Everyone wants a fiddle.

If a conference invites me to speak, I will come. I will feel honoured that my voice is aligned to the themes of the conference.

But, I am not applying to anymore conferences. What I have to say is not aligned to the climate and I don’t want to be in environments that are fraudulent and filled with edu-celebrity culture.

I can live with the fact that I never sold out. I could have made more money giving workshops on pedagogy and stuff like how to teach multiplying/dividing and make it all “figureoutable”, but my water bill would have been extremely high with all the showers I would have had to take to get the mathematical stink out.

**Curiosity and mental health.** That’s all I am interested in. It’s also what math education and conferences are not interested in.

No more time and energy am I going to give to being in this space or wasting my breath on its insufferable state of centring people instead of centring mathematics.

Where am I going? What am I going to do? Well, I have a big music book coming out in a few months — and I feel like I am finally going back home to the community that has always had my heart and back.

Anything mathematical I do will not intersect institutionalized math education. It’s curiosity or bust.

However, the image below, from a 2020 keynote is a big hint as to what space I am going to move into starting this September. It *literally* foreshadowed where I would be in 2024.

Time to start again, almost literally, as a seedling somewhere else…

Zero regrets. Ridiculously happy. Will miss some of you who are still in this space. But, it’s time to move on…and await when this day will come again in the world of mathematics education.

Appreciating the simple — but abundantly rich — fruit of *doing* mathematics. Growing *it *and tasting *it *with others, and being marvelled by* it.*

That was the *last of us*…