Interest vs Engagement

A follow up to my last post, and Michael Pershan’s ideas on the topic. The difference between mine and Michael’s thoughts on what is interesting was mostly that I found more things interesting that were harder to answer, and that I didn’t pursue. After thinking more on the topic, I’m realizing how much of a difference there is between interest and engagement. I am interested in the general solution to quartic equations(I’m reading this on Euler, and it has a great chapter on his contributions to algebra), but it can’t hold my attention for very long–because I feel like the answer is beyond my mathematical understanding. Many of the questions from my last post are answerable–but I didn’t pursue and answer them. I didn’t Google braking distance at different temperatures, or the Tibetan plateau. That’s the difference between interest and engagement. Most of my engagement, right now, is focused on my teaching–there aren’t many other things that keep me focused for a long period of time. Some books, blogs, darts, and planning a trip to Utah over December break are the other big ones. So, to build off of Michael’s work, I’m considering what things–outside of what I’m engaged in day to day–engage me for significant periods of time, whether I stick with them, and where they fit into my Zone of Proximal Development.

As a corollary, this makes me think about how I hook students at the beginning of a lesson. Am I taking an easy win that gets my students to sit up and smile at the start of class (interest), or am I convincing them that what we are learning and what they are struggling with is worth their time and effort (engagement)? And, the big puzzle–how can I do that for every student in the room?

One thought on “Interest vs Engagement

  1. Michael Pershan (@mpershan)

    Honestly, maybe I actually find tougher stuff interesting too. Another factor that I didn’t really consider in any of my posts is that the math that I’m likely to use to solve anything resembling an every day problem is going to be relatively easy.


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