I’ve been busy recently working on an introduction for some videos we are putting together for the website. We hope to re-use it a lot when we start getting really in-depth into some of our tutorials, and so we are spending some real time making it look as good as it needs to be. We are also going to use these tutorials to introduce you to the actual math dragons. We’ve named them Norbert and Errol. The names seemed—appropriate.
All of this has made me think more, though, about something that’s very important to me, personally.
Why am I doing this? Why? It takes hours to do this kind of thing, and it can be very slow at times. I’m having to learn new things and practice with new tools all the time. I’m not an animator.
Why am I dropping all this time into trying to explain to people what math is? Why does it matter?
Well, part of it really is all the reasons we give on the introduction page. Both me and Jason really believe that math education is important for our children’s future. We both feel like math education can be improved, and that we have the skills to help people understand why. There’s so much that can be improved, and the world has finally gotten to a place where we can spread the message far and wide.
But that’s only part of it. There’s another part. There are ways I’ve always envied Jason. He likes teaching. It’s a big part of who he is, and he does a good job of it. We enjoy talking about ways he can help his class through some of this stuff, which can be really difficult. I enjoy the challenge, even while knowing he’s better at it than I am.
I’ve have spent some time teaching. I’ve tutored on and off throughout my life, never for money. I’ve had mixed success. With my experience, I can at least consistently get the students to the right answer, but sometimes the students got rather fed up because I kept asking the very simple “Why?” questions which they weren’t really used to. They just wanted to get the right answers so they could play basketball. And who can blame them?
In all of this, though, there’s been something very special that has always been treasured. It’s that moment when a child, or an adult, or even myself, finally understands. There’s the point where people get it. Something that was difficult before is—well, still difficult, because math isn’t easy. But it makes sense. They now know how to use it. This is a beautiful moment, like the moment you make it to the end of a hike and see the sun rising over the valley. Or the moment when you realize that this is finally it, I am really, truly going to graduate. (I’d add a marriage comparison here, but I’m still single.)
I believe so much that more people can get this kind of moment in mathematics that do right now. I believe that this clarity is a moment worth striving for in its own right. In our own little way, we see a very small part of the mind of God. And the best part is, it’s still useful for all those other things we keep talking about. In fact, it turns the STEM fields— science, technology, engineering and math—from a high-paying chore to a challenging puzzle. It’s still not easy, but it is worth it.
And I want so much to give more children and adults the chance to experience that for themselves. I see so many people who could get it, but have decided they just don’t know how. Combine this with the practical downsides of innumeracy, and you have a cause I can fully get behind.
Names and programs and politicians and school boards may come and go, but this part of math, I will push for regardless.