I regularly annoy math teachers by questioning why I would need to learn Pythagoras’ Theorem as a kid.
Or Calculus? Seriously… does that even exist?
And just to prove I’m not being mathsist, why should we care about Shakespeare?
Whilst you might this I’m being facetious when I’m doing this, I’m trying to highlight that whilst I – as a somewhat educated 37 year-old – can see the value in each of the above, I wonder if it’s as apparent to the average teenager (the one who isn’t satisfied with the exam or future rationale)?
Whilst some kids will tolerate not having a greater imperative for learning other than, it will be on the test, or they, might need it when they’re older, for a great deal of students this is the first step towards disengagement.
If it doesn’t really matter to them, why learn it?
Seriously… what do you say when kids ask you, “Why are we doing this?”
How do you make it matter?
I’m hoping we can build a resource of powerful answers to such questions.
Let’s share some ideas on #MakeItMatter2Me on Twitter or feel free to offer suggestions to “Why are we learning this?” in the comment box below.
A good start point sometimes can be to ask, “Why are we teaching this?”
It’s a powerful question than can foster real innovation in what and how we teach.
Thought provoking post.
From a literacy perspective, in my class we have a mantra of “we are doing this to become better readers and better writers”. For reasons why we should be better readers, we’ve talked about how it makes you smarter, think new thoughts, learn more about yourself, the world and other people, it’s fun, for a start. For being better writers, you can express yourself, share something important to you and it’s fun. If the things we do don’t lead to these end points then we’ll question why we should do it.
From a maths perspective, we have learnt that mathematicians are efficient, design things, solve problems and test ideas. Anything that we do should fit into those categories, otherwise we can’t justify doing it.
I agree Dan, “Why are we teaching this?” is a great question. It’s easy to become defensive and to start giving reasons for teaching disconnected content, even if those reasons are weak. Why learn Simpson’s rule in mathematics when it’s highly unlikely to be used in the real world?
It’s obvious to me that teaching content which is closely linked to real-life contexts and situations is much more effective, memorable and more useful than teaching content which is distantly or indirectly connected to real life.
Teachers often don’t set the content, and at best, they can have some choice in selecting content options like optional modules or selecting from a list of approved texts. So teachers have to strive to connect content to the real world, and the closer they can connect it to the students’ world / life, the more the lesson sticks.
Students learn a lot more than content, they learn skills, processes and more, and these are the often the basis of teachers justifications when questioned by students. Are all of these skills and processes useful? The more connected these skills and processes are with students’ lives, the more engaged students are.
It’s great to have a cheat sheet of reasons to give to students who can sometimes accurately guage that the content is outdated or maybe not that useful in real life; but it’d be great as well if teacher and student opinions had greater influence on the bodies which decide on the content, skills and processes taught.
I thinks its about time the Australian governmen realise they are teaching our children in the year of 2014. Our children are now taught computers at a very early age because it is relevant to our society today. Why then are we still teaching Pythagoras theory in maths?
We do not teach children to perform heart surgery for just in case they wish to become surgeons or to study the Australian constitution in case they wish to possibly follow in the footsteps of our prime minister. These are all relevant to specific occupation and are taught in further education. I strongly believe that this is the area that Pythagoras theorem falls into.
I think that the government should look at introducing relevant studies such as budgeting, and daily activities such as completing forms,etc. This may sound silly but my 15 year old step daughter is learning Pythagoras at school, but cannot budget for next week, let alone next year. She does not even know how to address an envelope which is something we do regularly as adults.
I’m not saying don’t teach Pythagoras, but i strongly urge the education department to teach our students more relevant information that will assist them in their every day lives.