So you’re saying I haven’t been doing it wrong all along?

Third grade… multiplication tables… timer goes off… and once again, I’m still not done the worksheet. Being an overachiever, (go figure someone willingly pursuing a PhD is a overachiever) the worst part of it all is the chart in the back of the room. Every student who completed the worksheet got a sticker next to their name. Next to my name appallingly fewer stickers than the rest of the class. Endless repetition to teach basic math, endless and fruitless torture for me as a student with a number of learning disabilities.

It wasn’t until much later, senior year of college, working through some system of equations to solve some kind of fluids problem that I realized, I had just gotten through a page of work without grabbing for my calculator. FINALLY! I felt like I could do math like a 3rd grade student… I guess I stand as proof positive that the basics don’t have to be learned to the point of second nature. Basic math still requires active thought and I will still grab for the calculator more often than not just to be sure. Yet I would say I have been successful in my ventures so far.

Similar to the children observed absorbing Harry Potter through some unknown process, some topics just clicked for me. Ask me about how to reconfigure the suspension on a car to suit a style of driving and I can do it no problem. Ask me to calculate the forces in the suspension during a turn and the calculator is going to come back out, but I learned the equations for that.

I wish I could identify the means which I learned these things. I think, some level of interest and engagement factors into the learning with mindful practices. Based on my experiences, if there is no way to foster the engagement and enjoyment for learning no amount of mindful practices will aid in the process. But if you can foster the learning experience to cultivate that engagement, mindful learning has the opportunity to organically develop and follow.

3 Replies to “So you’re saying I haven’t been doing it wrong all along?”

  1. I definitely agree that some level of interest or engagement is essential for most of the situations you describe. And you sound to me like someone whose calculator use makes perfect sense — you’re interested in solving the problem and have a good grasp of the concepts that shape the formulas that will allow you do that. So let the calculator do the calculating?

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I, too, hated those timed multiplication tests in elementary school. And I agree that some level of interest or engagement is important for a lot of learning experiences. With some of the things that I have really enjoyed learning, in addition to being interested in the topic, I have had time to explore and go in different directions and I usually am trying to accomplish something in particular. Just some thoughts as I continue to reflect on my own learning experiences!

  3. After reading this post, I started thinking that more and more skill that we learned will become something like calculating and can be done with a calculator. We should start to think what are the most important skills in our area that can last longer before a new type of calculator will appear and solve it automatically.

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