The classroom as it should be: our vision
By Richard Wilson
When I walk through the world I see things differently. I notice numbers and the way they create patterns and relationships. I search for the connections between the abstract and the concrete. I compute 90% confidence intervals for the quality of my coffee. When my two year-old and I check our carton for broken eggs it becomes a counting exercise. When I go to a café with my five year-old it becomes an exploration of the difference between one coffee cup and zero cups, and whether zero coffee cups is equivalent to zero pastries.
But I’m not trying to do maths. Maths is just part of my identity.
I didn’t use to be like this. I used to be like most of the population: numbers were vaguely threatening, ‘maths’ was something you used in school but probably never anywhere else and statistics were a tool used by politicians to influence the populace.
My mathematical ‘awakening’ came when I was nineteen years old and studying philosophy. While exploring the very real human experience of the passing of time, I realised that this supposedly vague concept could be described, evaluated and tested not just in traditional language, but in a uniquely expressive and symbolic language — mathematics. Imagine: you can actually write equations that explain why time goes forward and not backwards!
To be clear, I didn’t have the mathematical knowledge to be able to do that at nineteen, but the very realisation that it might be possible changed my mindset about what mathematics was.
I came to believe that mathematics provides a beautiful and elegant way of thinking about reality, that my days are richer and more interesting for having this additional lens on the world, and that instilling a love of mathematics in all of us is valuable in itself.
Most of the kids in our classrooms don’t believe those things. Truthfully, most of the adults in our world don’t believe them. ‘I’m not a maths person’. ‘Maths is for boys’. ‘I was never good at maths’. ‘Maths doesn’t make sense.’
Maths Pathway rages against these ideas every day. We came into existence to rage against it — and yes, I’m using the word ‘rage’ intentionally. How, as educators, politicians, philanthropists, and society-at-large can we accept this level of discomfort, of anxiety, of sheer terror when it comes to maths? By far the majority of our children finish school never really understanding maths, never seeing what is beautiful, exciting and powerful about it. The mission of the teachers, students, parents, schools and partners who are part of the Maths Pathway community is to make certain that the next generation sees all of that. We’re going to ensure they walk into maths class and feel like this is the best part of the day.
What will success look like? Nothing less than a world that, for the first time in human history, understands and is entirely comfortable with mathematics. It will be a world that most of us won’t even recognise — a population that can’t be manipulated by ‘statistics’; that can solve even the most complex social and scientific problems; whose interactions with each other are rich, deep and thoughtful.
This report chronicles the latest step on our collective journey towards that world. Explore it and see what we’ve learnt so far and how you can help bring about this new world.