I was inspired by Nat Banting to ask my students to complete the sentence or paragraph “Mathematics is…”. Below is a selection of the responses.

Worth noting that at the start of the year we spent some time discussing “Why math?”. I made an argument for learning math along the lines of Underwood Dudley’s in What Is Mathematics For, which probably influenced responses.

Mathematics is studying the meaning of the world and universe through numbers and patterns.

Mathematics is learning how numbers can interact with each other and how our world is filled with complicated problems that math can solve.

Mathematics is figuring out stuff using things. I don’t know if there even always has to be numbers in there, although that’s what I think of math as mostly being. In different math classes I’ve had to think in a lot of different ways, so I also think it’s that — learning to think in different ways. I always think math is about problem solving, but it’s also weird because all of the math we do was invented by dudes from Ancient Greece, or something like that. I don’t really know.

Mathematics is a form or problem solving in which you find values of certain things using different skills. It’s not about getting the right answer, but about how you got to it. You can do this by finding patterns and applying them to getting your answer.

Mathematics is the study of problem solving in the form of numbers and shapes. By solving equations and mathematical problems, our brains learn how to work through and figure out real world problems. Although we may never need to know mathematical facts again, the skills we learn from math are forever useful.

And, my favorite:

Mathematics is something that is useful up to about 8th grade, and then comes something taught to us to fill gaps in our school day and stress us out. It is utterly useless by this point and I feel we are only taught it to honor the mathematicians who discovered theorems and phenomenons so that they don’t feel like their whole career and life was a total waste of time. Although now they’re probably all dead so who really cares, unless their ghosts come back to haunt us. Even though I believe all of this I do appreciate your honesty when saying we probably won’t use this math again and your class seems legit. Cool bye.

Lots to work on here.

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