Sunday, 27 March 2016

Math and History - a comparison of two subjects

My grades were not good. They were "consolation" grades — the sort of grades that say: "You showed up for the exam and spelled your name correctly so I’m giving you a pass in the course."

I did not develop a sense of epoch. I had trouble grasping the significance of major historical events. Our history books and lessons were an unitemized list of facts, dates, and names. Wars and revolutions happened, and then they ended, and that was it. There was no connective tissue. There was no pattern. History was a confusing and uninviting subject.

In high school, I liked math and I was "good" at it. My grades were excellent.

My brush with Arithmetic in elementary school was disagreeable. However, in high school computational skills were not front and centre, and I got along extremely well without them.
My Algebra and Geometry and Trigonometry courses made sense. There were clear bonds between them. There was a sense of inevitability as we worked through the material.

 * * * 

Of course, the description of my History courses is not accurate, but that’s how I reacted to them. So I ask: 

What sucked the joy out of my History courses? 

I do not know the answer.

Now go back to the first two paragraphs of this post and replace the word History with the word Mathematics. Does this describe how some students feel about math?

So what sucked the joy out of their Mathematics courses? 

I don’t know the answer to that question either.