March 2, 2019 at 4:01 PM #55714
March 2, 2019 at 6:42 PM #55715
Thank you for addressing this question, Peter. The question is not always a belligerent one and at times it gives us cause to ponder and fine-tune our own teaching. I have often thought back to one student who demanded an answer to her, “Why do I have to learn this? I will never use it in my life!” From a bit more of a distance now I would wish to have responded to the assumption that it will never be useful. We don’t know what will happen ten minutes from now, much less ten years or a life time from now. You addressed that aspect in your blog. We prepare for the unknown future, we want to be equipped to make wise choices in whatever role we are called to live. A 10 or 16 year old has less of a picture of the width and breadth of life to come. What I remember mentioning in response to the mentioned student was the fact that learning steps in math is not all about math itself, but it includes practicing tenacity, carefulness, faithfulness etc. These life lessons go beyond the “how will I ever use this specific step in this subject I dislike at the moment” question. You also mentioned this aspect in your blog. Thank you. And like you alluded to, we do not wish to simply shut up students who ask, including belligerent ones, but give them a chance to see beyond their own small scope of life experience by pointing out some of the things you mentioned.
March 11, 2019 at 10:20 AM #55792
When will I ever use?… reflects utilitarian thinking–something is of value if I can use it (and presumably not worthwile) if it’s of no use. Although utilitarian thinking serves an important but limited role, its focus devalues many important studies.
Motivating students toward the Psalm 111:2 level of studying…
The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all those who have delight in them helps them engage Him on many levels and in many ways. The study of the created world, including mathematical and scientific principles is one way to “think His thoughts after Him” (“There’s not a plant or theorem below but makes His glories known.”) History, language, literature, and geography offer access to a form of wisdom that includes understanding of other times, people, and places.
God’s gift to Solomon (I Kings 4:29-34) is also instructive for this level of studying.
Beware of trying to motivate students by harping on how significant and wonderful all these studies are. Instead, be so infused with the subject at hand and so engaged with your students that interaction with your class pulls them into the subject and immersing yourself in the subject takes your students with you.
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