Journal: grateful 3 – math

leonhardeuler

Today I am grateful for mathematics, which has been the underpinning of my life. Letting people know that I love math frequently gives them the wrong impression. They think I like calculating and getting “the right answer.” That is not what math is.

Math is not about getting the right answer. Unfortunately, teaching math and grading students focuses on getting to the end of the calculation first and fastest. This technique is boring, frustrating, and generally useless. It teaches at best technique not substance.

No, math is not about getting the right answer; it is about asking the right questions. Think back on the math classes you were in. Who did well in those classes? The “smart” kids, right? And how did you know they were smart? Well, they got good grades, got the right answers, and behaved differently from most kids. They were alert, paid attention, and – you got it – asked a lot of questions.

They were unafraid to ask “dumb” questions. They were stoked with gaining knowledge. They were frequently told, “We’ll be dealing with that subject next (week or semester or in college etc.).” Yeah, I was one of them, and it was fun.

It is fun. It’s also hard, which makes the process more fun. I apply that world view to programming, process change, and walking down the street. I ask,

“Why did that happen?”

“Why do they continue to do it that way”

“Why can’t they improve this?”

“What if we did this?”

“How might we change things to get to this point?”

And so on. That is the math I love.