Friday Focus!

Friday the `13th, November 13, 2015

Delusion, Distraction, Waste

The preface of a mathematics resource book informs the reader of the following:

In accordance with our principle of relative inclusiveness, we have at-tempted to define every term used in our definitions. However, just as we have tried to set the level of each entry for the reader who is likely to have recourse to it, so we have only explicitly signaled a cross-ref­erence where we judge it likely to assist that reader, and for synony­mous terms we have attempted to cross-refer the less common to the more common, although a degree of arbitrariness (to say nothing of subjectivity) is inevitable in such judgments.

(Borowski & Borwein, 2002)

Such a paragraph may bring to mind some of the following:

“Where’s the beef?”

Separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Focus on the substance of the idea.”

Get to the point.

Clear as mud.”

All the authors wanted the reader to know in the above excerpt is that they had chosen the terms they thought were the most essential for student learning and tried to make them easy to understand. Why did they have to do all of the colorful packaging? Well, perhaps their love of the English language clouded their understanding of their readers’ needs and interest level.

As teachers, our interests and love of partic­ular topics can do this to us—and our students—as well. In the class-room, and in our daily lives, keeping it simple by focusing on the substance of things can make life easier. However, we shouldnt confuse keeping it simple with making it easy. Challenging, interest­ing, thought-provoking lessons are still possible, but delusion, dis­traction, and waste will interfere with the lasting knowledge we are striving to impart to our students.

Our lives, as teachers, are now considered among the top three stress-producing jobs in the world. So here is a thought from an old teacher:

“If we ‘keep it simple’ (in our teaching-centered lives), we may find that focusing on substance may make everything easier and bring enduring successes.

Have a great weekend,

Jamal