I am a faithful follower of the school of thought that places a high value on design: aesthetic appeal, artistic creativity, and user friendliness. I come from a family of artists, I am well-educated in art and design, and I will admit that I spend as much energy on the design of my classroom materials as I do on their content. This balance of focus comes from a deep rooted belief that a good design enhances the content of the material. AND I feel validated in my belief system. Many wonderful and successful math teachers will back me up: Dan Meyer and Edward Burger are two of my biggest idols.
I'm willing to accept that perhaps my innate abilities and predisposed comfort with mathematics put me in a class of students that differed from the majority, but I cannot shake the idea that perhaps there is something bigger at the core of good math instruction. And dare I suggest that perhaps design and structure can actually detract from the spontaneity and chaos that is seated in the heart of truly excellent math instruction?
I, for one, am not ready to abandon my presentation values, but I'm feeling a tug, and I'm starting to more fully appreciate the wisdom of the vast base of experience out there. As I examine my own curricula, I find myself paying closer attention to content. I also am now beginning to look for open spaces to exploit... making sure there is room for spontaneous exploration, encouraging tangents, and hoping that for every carefully designed solution, new unanswered questions will emerge. This is a challenging, but thrilling task for me.
I'll leave with these thoughts, knowing full well that my ideas are evolving. I hope you will add your wisdom:
- Good design can enhance good content, but does not add value to poor content.
- Quality design is especially useful to enhance approach-ability, which for many students is the biggest blockade in their math education.
- Presentation skills are important life skills - necessary for good teachers and students.
- Mathematics is chaotic. Removing chaos and spontaneity from the mathematics classroom is detrimental to the educational atmosphere. Adding the right kind of chaos is an under-appreciated art.