I’ve written before about the need to focus on the affective side of learning mathematics. It is a topic I am quite passionate about and it is the focus of my Ph.D. research in math education. I feel strongly enough about it that when people ask me what I teach I don’t respond with “I teach math,” or “I teach geometry,” or “I teach statistics.” Rather, I respond with “I teach math appreciation.” I think that is a much more apt description of our calling as math educators. We love math and the majority of students do not. Our goal is not to simply transfer our intellectual knowledge to the students, but to infect them with out enthusiasm.
I have been encouraged to see a recent publication come to my attention that address this matter. It was a New York Times article titled “How to Fall in Love with Math.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion of the article, that the solution to the problem is to be found in technology, it is nice to see the problem of mathematical affections being raised in the first place. I also enjoyed the opening of the article where the author clearly states what every math educator knows that nobody else does: when people say things like “do the math” they reveal that the public perception is that mathematics and arithmetic are the same thing. In reality arithmetic is an extremely small subset of mathematics. Mathematics as a discipline has something much grander than simply addition and multiplication that propels it forward. As the author states:
As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall.