Most math teachers say they love math. And the best ones make a determined effort to inculcate their students with that same sense of the divine. How often do they succeed in this? We all know the answer is “not very often.”
And why not? Well for one thing as math professor Manil Siri recently said, “Math gets a bad rap.” Before we get to school our parents have already told us about math--and what they’ve told us about it wasn’t good. Math’s hard, it isn’t very useful in real life; and besides, you need a special mental aptitude for it to be successful. For another, even those teachers otherwise capable of making students fall in love with math are limited by their curriculum; or as high school math teacher Dan Meyer complains, to simply “memorizing procedures and performing them accurately and quickly.” A method requiring lots of boring homework far from that inspiring, charismatic teacher.
Do students need to fall in love with math to be good at it? Well, it certainly makes a teacher’s life easier if the students are enjoying what they are doing. This is true of every discipline from language to physics. But in the absence of ‘Love!’ most teachers would settle for students simply realizing how beautifully an understanding of math can help them interact with the real world.
Robots are one way of achieving this understanding. First of all, robots are math anthropomorphized . For another, teachers with robots in their math classes find it easy to keep the students attention. Kids seem to instinctively like robots. Many come to love the things.
Can students be taught to love math? Maybe, but only if teachers can find away around the negative influences so common in our culture. Robots might be the way to do it.
Learn how to teach quadratic equations using a quad-copter robot: