Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lessons from Math Camp

I am in Math Camp right now and I really like the professor. He's a big math nerd who has found his niche. I love being in the presence of people who have found their niche. He's fastidious in his personal appearance and has my favorite kind of humor in a teacher. He also explains the basics in a very clear progression and responds well to the interaction and responses of the class.

Watching him teach, I formulated the following thoughts. Of course, because I was supposed to be simultaneously learning from him, I needed the folks in my small group to re-explain inequalities to me 20 minutes later.

The teacher of math has to be sensitive to the emotion of the room. So many people struggle with the math that a lesson can be stalled purely through frustration. Mentally, the class has put on the brakes to learning. The teacher believes that the solution will be found and this allows her to charge on ahead. The students' unbelief in his own abilities to solve the problem is actually the cause of the problem remaining unsolved. This is not the same as an actual lack of ability or a lack of a solution. The teach has both. The student has potential both. Only unbelief gets in the way.
The kicker is that brain research tells us that sometimes we need that still time for the brain to process new ideas and to let them connect to the foundation of knowledge that has already been accumulated. The ah-ha moment is only possible after the brain lies fallow for a little while. The best teachers recognize this paralyzed state in their students, and acknowledge its necessity by sitting down and giving them some time to process. Professor Boller did this.

So, if belief in math can be equivalent to the belief in God (and all of the different things that "God" can mean to people), the we need periods of unbelief in order for belief to occur. Unbelief, or even doubt don't negate God or our ability to discover God. It is simply a natural stage in the process of ultimately reaching spiritual enlightenment, which I sometimes call reconciliation with God.

Therefore, the "unbeliever" should not be seen as pitiable, like so many Christians do. These folks are actually growing closer to understanding. Rather, the people that should be pitied and "evangelized" are those people who know the solution and how to get there, but shirk the tasks involved in being teachers.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I was going to come up with a serious response to your serious post, but then I started thinking about you falling with a big birthday cake and lost my train of thought.

just pretend like I said something deep and enlightening.