Exploration by it’s very nature is a step into the unknown. Armed with no map, no set of steps, no set path, the explorer embraces the excitement of discovery with a willingness to get lost in the adventure. Imagine for a moment exploration that was planned, with every destination known, every step predetermined…it would not be as much fun, it would not belong to the explorer, and it would not be exploration.
Mathematics is a place where exploration is not only possible…it is necessary. Through exploration and play we can breath life into the learning of mathematics, as we open up opportunities for imagination, creativity curiosity and wonderment. These qualities can carry the mathematics beyond the textbook, the worksheet, the drill and practice. They can make mathematics come alive. This exploration needs to belong to the explorer and the explorer in every learner needs to be given opportunities to discover and create in mathematics. There may be times when we would want to give students the map with the route laid out and support them on reaching the destination but there should also be times where students face a problem or situation and need to reason your way to the other side, without the road map. In those times it becomes about finding their own way, embracing the different but equally valid paths/solutions of others, and truly discovering not only the science of mathematics but it’s artistry and creativity as well. This exploration does not need to happen in isolation. Explorers can join resources and thinking power to help navigate the journey and share in the excitement of discovery.
In this video Dan Meyer‘s describes the problems facing mathematics education when we take all of the exploration out of the subject.
1. Lack of initiative- Translation- I don’t want to do it!
2. Lack of Perseverance- Translation- It’s too hard! I give up!
3. Lack of Retention- Translation- I don’t know. Blank look.
4. Aversion to word problems- Translation- Can I just have a sheet of numbers.
5. Eagerness for a formula- Translation- Can you just show me how to do it?
By purposely and deliberately creating an environment where mathematics exploration and discovery flourish we can harness the inner mathematics explorer in our students.
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. Frank Borman