Why Talking Math with Adults Matters

Recently, a number of Tweets from the #MTBoS community have surfaced, discussing conversations with adults who have misconceptions about math.

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It struck me that while we (the MTBoS community) espouse the importance of talking to children about math, and indeed teaching math in compassionate and understanding ways, we rarely afford adults that same care.

It also struck me that no MTBoS educator would intentionally speak to a student this way, nor share the conversation on Twitter to inspire facepalm-type reactions from others.

I have a proposal. When we have conversations with adults who have misconceptions about math, lets consider the following:

  • What makes sense about their thinking?

  • What would you say or do next if this was a student or a child?

Adults with misconceptions about math are not responsible for the heart-breaking, anxiety-inducing, and dispassionate educations they have experienced. When we don’t engage in these important conversations with people, they don’t walk away with a deeper understanding or interest in learning about this thing called math that we love so dearly. They walk away feeling shamed, stupid, or less-than.

Had David Wees not engaged in a compassionate and caring conversation about math with me almost 10 years ago, I would have walked away feeling the same way. Let’s do the work, MTBoS.

Carla Dawson