I love this idea, but I’m a math teacher and I wonder how I could realistically incorporate it.
Mike Mountain
12

Mike, that’s a tough one…because of what we’ve done to math.

I used to teach high school math, but at that time I was using standards-based learning, not really going gradeless. One of the issues with the standards-based mindset (which is how many of us ultimately ended up going down this path) is how it itemizes/atomizes instruction and assessment into a falsely discrete, disconnected, sequential, algorithmic discipline. And at that point, we’re not all that different than Khan Academy.

My friend and colleague Isabel Rodríguez turned me on to “A Mathematician’s Lament” by Paul Lockhart, which shows just how far we’ve strayed from the mathematicians mindset in our approach. The article I wrote right before this one reflects on my own experience transitioning from teaching mathematics to language arts.

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. But we do have a good number of math teachers in the group who are asking these same questions. Going gradeless may give us an opportunity to rekindle the curiosity and wonder of mathematics. Leave you with a quote from Lockhart’s piece:

Nevertheless, the fact is that there is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical, subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics. It is every bit as mind blowing as cosmology or physics (mathematicians conceived of black holes long before astronomers actually found any), and allows more freedom of expression than poetry, art, or music (which depend heavily on properties of the physical universe). Mathematics is the purest of the arts, as well as the most misunderstood.