“Don’t go asking those ‘why’ questions!”
That, in essence, is what a high school math teacher told a relative of mine a few years back when she and some of her classmates were struggling to understand algebra. I don’t have to tell you why that comment disturbs me, but here goes: Good teachers would do almost anything to get their students to ask more “why” questions, and here this person was discouraging them. “Just plug the figures into the
formula,” she seemed to be saying, “and get the right answer.”
I probably also don’t need to say that my relative — who, I might add, is extremely bright and witty –is not planning a career in math or science.
I thought about that “no why questions” reprimand last week at the unveiling of a major report by the Carnegie Corporation called The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy.
The report says that the United States must dramatically improve math and science education for all students if it is to compete in the global economy.
One key to unlocking student potential is attracting more and better teachers to the hard-to-staff STEM fields (science, technology engineering, and math), the kind who would welcome those very “why” questions.