Recently, Kim was asked to meet with a group of math specialists wanting some advice for helping children negotiate the reading demands of multiple step word problems. During the meeting, Kim offered several suggestions and strategies, but as one might expect in a cross-disciplinary meeting such as this, the conversation bounced between math and literacy. One of the things that this particular group of teachers shared with Kim was a way of doing long division called “Partial Quotients” that Kim had neither seen nor heard of before. (In case you’re not familiar, check out this one-and-a-half minute tutorial video from the University of Chicago.)
As the teachers walked Kim through the process, she was skeptical. In the back of her mind, she heard herself judging this methodology. Why bother? This isn’t any easier than the way I was taught. But as the orientation continued, she realized that her initial judgments were unfounded. The real reason she had rejected the partial quotients methodology initially was because she didn’t understand it. It was new and unfamiliar and, like many things that are new and unfamiliar, it felt hard. By the end of the tutorial, however, Kim was eager to go home and share this with her husband and two sons. It felt like long division had just gotten a lot easier!
Kim’s story illuminates the need for educators of all stripes to embrace a dynamic mindset. While Kim’s mind was busy resisting partial quotients, another part of her mind was busy retaliating with her deeply held belief that all ideas hold potential, so long as we allow ourselves the opportunity to see it. How much do we miss when we resort to snap judgments? Even the seemingly worst ideas deserve consideration and at least some analysis. We can never know what will spark new thinking or insight. When your initial reaction to something is negative, stop and ask yourself, these questions:
What is the truth in this idea?
Why am I offended by it?
- What piece of this perspective can I embrace to better balance my thinking/working/living?