Refusing to fake it

Yesterday a 10 year-old said this to me about her experience with math: “It’s like I’ve been doing it, but I haven’t been learning it. People keep saying ‘well if you’re doing it you must be learning it,’ but I don’t think I am.”

What she meant by doing it was that she was performing the tasks that constitute math in her classroom and what’s assigned for homework, but she didn’t understand much of it.  And she thought learning should be about something more than getting through an assignment.

In many cases, the old “learn by doing!” axiom is a helpful way to think about things; it tends to be much more effective to give someone the chance to actually engage in the activity of something than to just tell them about it.  But when we ask kids, and other people, to go through the motions of something without context or conceptual grounding, we drain the learning out of it.  We make it about performance and not about growth.

Every once in a while someone notices, and demands more.