Innovation Isn't Easy
Last week an interesting letter to the editor (below) appeared in USA Today. I didn't catch the original commentary, but apparently there's a discussion about why kids hate math and what to do about it. The author of letter, Blake Nielsen, thinks banning calculators in the classroom could help.
Wait ONE second! I ONLY liked math when I HAD a calculator. Hmmm.
So I may not be sold on the solution, but the letter struck me for a couple of other reasons. Have a look and gather your thoughts...
Did you notice anything? Here's where my mind went (in sequential order...)
- Do 25 year old guys actually read NEWSPAPERS? He must have caught the story on Twitter, right? (My brain often goes to frivolous thoughts first.)
- Isn't grasping complex math equations the GOAL of math? Why do you need to worry about long division?
- Should you use your parents and grandparents as an argument for modeling education practices today? Is that realistic?
- Will banning calculators make kids MORE excited about math? Is the solution that simple?
Banning new technologies is NOT an innovative approach to creating a math fever in the next generation. I'm not trying to pick on Blake. If you're like me, you may approach problems in a similar way. Innovation has many enemies, and this example illustrates at least three.
- When there is an ill-defined goal, innovation dies.
- If you focus on resetting the clock to the "good old days," innovation can't grow.
- If you don't deal with the realistically with the complexities of a problem, you leave no room for new or creative solutions.
When you facing a challenge that requires creative problem solving, you would do well to remember what we see in this tale:
- Make your goals clear.
- Don't waste energy trying to rewind what's already happened, but look forward to what COULD be done in the future.
- Give yourself time to work through the complexities of a problem so the solution is adequate to the scope of the challenge.
Feel free to use a calculator if it helps.