Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writing and Numbers

I’ve just finished writing and submitting 246 pages of Algebra 2 content, (the first of 6 submissions), and the feeling of accomplishment and utter exhaustion is completely overwhelming.

 I love math, I love numbers, and I always have. Those around me have always referred me to as a human calculator. Although I would not give myself that high esteem in regards to my computation abilities, I’m able to do things with numbers in my head that I find peculiar in most situations.

 I’ve often wondered why my mind works so fast with numbers, and I’m curious if it was something that I was taught, if so I don’t remember, or rather if it’s just the way that my mind works. If it is something that I was taught, then I wish I could hone in on the specific skills and strategies that were employed to me, so that I might pass them on to my daughter.

 I’m very curious about how she’ll feel about math when she’s older. My parents weren’t particularly math whizzes, so I don’t think I can simply give them the credit for my love of numbers. I do, however, hope that I’m able to pass my love of numbers on to my daughter.

I studied math in college for quite some time as an undergrad, but I decided to teach English instead. I’m not sure that my love for writing can be translated as easily. Writing is so different than math, and the teaching of writing is immensely different. I teach math to many of the students at my school, and I always find the experience very rewarding.

I often wonder why I feel so much more accomplished after I teach math skills than I do teaching writing strategies. It’s interesting because many students seem to value good lessons in math much more than writing; although they fear it much more. Why is that? I know that they see math as a much more difficult subject to approach, so is that why it seems that they value those lessons more?

What about the notion that everyone can write? I mean, most literate people write in some form on a daily basis. Do people feel more connected to writing, so they don’t see it as an equally difficult task? Is it that they see their writing as something that they could improve upon if they put in the time and effort, and they view math as some obscure entity?

Whenever students come in from ACT prep, they automatically assume that the writing and English portions will be easy; they’re mostly concerned with getting help for the math portion. I wonder why? Most of my students generally score pretty poorly on the English section initially, but they still view it as easier.

Personally, I think I enjoy teaching math more because it’s so concrete, and writing is so abstract. I can teach my students very specific steps and processes when it comes to math, but it takes so much more for me to impose strategies to improve voice in their writing. Effective writing skills are very hard to teach, but on the bright side, it seems that most students would rather write than do math, so at least we’ve got that going for us…


  1. Re: "Personally, I think I enjoy teaching math more because it’s so concrete, and writing is so abstract."

    I'll be interested in hearing whether you think this fits with Selber's rundown of wicked and tame problems (152). Is math tame? Writing wicked?

    Your entry got me thinking, too, about how early writing systems evolved from accounting--from the mathematical inclination to record-keep, to count. In this sense, numbers are highly abstract, right?, because the number is a substitute for the thing (much like a metaphor substitutes one word/concept for another).

  2. I would have to say in many ways that writing is wicked, and math in a sense is tame. I'm sure there would be many people who would disagree with me about that though! I think that the wickedness of writing is what makes it hard to teach. I can teach the process and how to use coordinating conjunctions with independent clauses, etc. which somewhat tame in nature, but when approaching aspects of writing such as teaching a student how to have a strong voice or tone in their writing, then the problem becomes far more wicked!

    Math in a sense can be wicked at times as well though, especially when we get into solving multi-step problems or other real-world math application problems. In those cases, students must decide which methods will fit best in order to discover the desired solution. Nonetheless, I still find writing teaching methods to be far more abstract and wicked at times.