Why? I need a reason: Shaping Mathematical Dispositions Part 1

Posted on October 9, 2010. Filed under: Classroom environment, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , |


Recently I was on a plane and I heard a conversation between a father and son that reminded me a lot of teachers and students.

Father:  Lower the armrest.

3 year old son: Why?

Father: What?

3 year old son: Why?

Father: Because I said so. I’m your father.

3 year old son: I need a reason.

Father: What?  I don’t know where you got that misconception!  I said lower the armrest.

3 year old son: I need a reason. That’s the rule….

Finally, the Father won and the 3 year old lowered the armrest…never getting a reason.   It was comical.  It made me think of what we often do to kids in school.

We say, “Turn to page 35 and do problems 1-7.”  And our students often feel like  “Why? I need a reason.”  And we get as indignant as that father and think/say “Because I told you so.  I’m the teacher.  This is school.  This is what you are expected to do. Period.”  So, usually, they just follow the directions, but deep down…they want a reason.  And it’s a fair question…that Why?

It reminded me to always give my students a reason…and a really good one about how this math makes sense for their lives.  If they get reasons, then they do math with understanding.  They gain confidence.  It starts to make sense.  This directly shapes their mathematical disposition.

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