Combine Maths And History For Better Impact
Who doesn’t remember the pain of being a teen and sitting through classes? All those boring classes in topics you didn’t care for, yet they were required. I remember sitting in college classes and being bored in maths and biology. We had the most boring teachers that could not make classes interesting.
And then you have college professors that are training the next generation of teachers advocating for making it worse by stripping maths from the context of history.
The professor in question, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Prof. Gutierrez, has two major sticking points she’d like to examine: English as the primary language for sharing knowledge and math as being a basis for intelligence.
Fair enough. I feel that way every time I pick up a biology or organic chemistry book. It might be written in “English,” but it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. It’s even worse when I’m studying a paper written by a colleague and I have to run it through Google Translate first. I get what she’s saying and advocating for to make a teen’s educational life smoother.
But does this extra effort indicate a lack of intelligence as she proposes? Though I can’t speak for anyone else, I’ve never been made to feel like an imbecile from an external force. My classmates and I all struggled together, helping one another through adversity ─ even back in college, the age when people are at their most viciously cruel.
As for being weak in maths being equal to less intelligent, that’s a social construct built by those under educated enough not to realise and embrace that there have been other models out since the 1980s.
1983, to be exact. That’s 34 years the model of multiple intelligences has been out, widely available (even in children’s book format), discussed, and even used in businesses and in education. The model itself was being developed and researched even earlier than that, too. A quick search for the book shows that it’s been translated to multiple other languages ─ including Spanish. So, a lack of English isn’t the problem here.
So is it that Prof. Gutierrez could be fighting for is for a wider diversity to be recognised as needed in the world? This is also an odd thing to fight for since any business owner or HR firm could tell you that diversity of strengths is the lifeblood of any good business. Diversity comes from having different strengths and weaknesses in how we interact with the world. Any business knows that you need people who are good with people (cultural intelligence), good with languages (linguistic intelligence), good with accounting (mathematical intelligence), and far more just to have a functioning business. The more you have, the stronger the company is. Without businesses, people can’t work, and without work, people can’t afford any degree of a comfortable lifestyle. It’s not something to fight for, it’s just a message to spread.
Spreading messages doesn’t happen by isolating people and shoehorning them into a specific group. Look at the ancient cultures for example if you need evidence. Xenophobic China and Japan didn’t grow, and history shows that they stagnated when they shut their borders, shunning all things from outside their cultures. If Prof. Guitierrez and other well-meaning educators want to institute a better environment, killing off a particular part of a topic because it offends or makes you uneasy is not going to help. Students need breadth of experiences and a chance to see all the things that are out there, not just things that are deemed “safe” because they came from people “just like them.”
Maybe the root of the problem is something Prof. Guitierrez doesn’t want to state: being ashamed of a heritage when taken in context of a particular topic’s history. If students and teachers are ashamed of their heritage because perceived great things did not come from them, then parents and teachers alike need to help them understand that the students can change that by creating and doing. They can put their culture on the map by being fearless in pursuing knowledge and the application of knowledge. There is no need to be ashamed of past ignorances, only what we refuse to do with the available knowledge now.
Thus, I’m calling on all educators to integrate more into their lessons. History, culture, math, science, politics, and arts can all be integrated into one another to show people how things work and give them the freedom to find new angles of knowledge. If the topic, such as a particular thing in math, originates in a foreign country such as India (Ancient Hindu’s created Zero), talk about why they thought of it and how it impacts life for the culture you live in. Yes, it requires that educators learn more about their world. Yes, it’s a lot of effort and time. But, frankly, if those flimsy excuses are what prevents you from being a stellar educator, then you’re probably in the wrong field.