George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Was Math Your Favorite Subject?: Learning to Make Mathematics Fun (and Applicable)

April 17, 2006

I admit it: Math was not my favorite subject in school. What was? Science. Why? Because I love animals. I love the trees and mountains and oceans and deserts; I love to watch the patterns of change in nature. I marvel at the diversity of life that has evolved on this Earth.

Still, math captured my attention, if not my interest, because in elementary school, a teacher told me that math was a tool of science. Well, then, better learn math and at least get a decent grade!

However, when I was in elementary school, I was taught math one way: through algorithms -- solving equations step by step -- in which there was one right way to get to the answer. I was okay at memorizing the steps, so I did well on math tests. I admit, though, that I never really understood the conceptual underpinnings of how math works or why following these prescribed steps led to the answer. I was one of those students who memorized for the test and then promptly forgot the math. Why? Math was not taught in context, and I never really figured out how to apply it fully to science.

Do you know if your students truly understand how math works or how they can apply it in the real world? Do you want them to like math? If so, take a hint from some great teachers who've integrated mathematical thinking and concepts with other subject areas. They teach math through solving problems in the context of real-world projects or problems:

Professional Development Adds Up: Integrating Integers Across Disciplines

Have great ideas about teaching mathematics? Share your story.

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