Math Happy

Slashdot pointed me to an article about a study on average math performance and average happiness in various countries. A, that’s such a broad topic and data pool that you can barely even show a correlation, let alone causality, as several Slashdot commentors have noted.

B, the conclusions the study author drew are disturbing. He believes that the study shows we are focusing too much on the happiness of the student, at the expense of learning the material. Which implies that happiness is less important than knowledge. Maybe so, and it’s certainly a popular opinion. But hardly the only one.

Shouldn’t happiness be the trait we aren’t willing to give up? Assuming there is some relationship between the two, I’d say, “Lets find new ways of teaching or applying math that do make us happy.” Not, “Let’s not bother worrying about happiness when teaching math.”

2 thoughts on “Math Happy”

  1. Unfortunately, today’s educational system is standardized test-driven, with the school’s rating (and the administration’s jobs) resting on the good performance of the students. With so much at stake, there is no time for students to be happy. They have to learn the material. Plus, sadly, I feel that parents are dropping the ball on teaching basic social skills like getting along with others, so that teachers have to take valuable class time to instill interpersonal values. Add to this the concept of learning styles and multiple intelligences: are you a visual learner, a tactile learner, do you have verbal/linguistic or bodily/kinesthetic intelligence? Teachers are now supposed to gear their lesson plans to reach every kind of learner. Not a bad thing per se, but it all takes time so teachers have a hard time finding time to just teach… I just think the teachers are between a rock and a hard place with their allotment of daily hours: have all students pass the standardized tests, or satisfy every students capabilities. There are no easy answers.

    You are right, new ways to teach AND make people happy is the answer. What do you change to get there? What do you give up to make it happen?

  2. I feel like a lot of it might be an attitude issue. So much pressure is put on you when you’re in school. I suspect the standardized testing and largely grade-focused mentality don’t help.

    Not that we shouldn’t be indifferent to performance. But maybe “soft” encouragement like showing how useful the various skills taught can be in real life. Make them want to learn somehow. I don’t really have any answers, though. 🙁

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