Is it time for education to change?

Do we really need to know how to factor a quadratic equation?

I mean… do most of us REALLY need to know this?  Today?  In 2020? 

Those are just a few of the questions that were flying through my mind the other night as I was trying to help Megan do her Advanced Algebra II homework. 

Homework.  That word has taken on a whole new meaning these days, hasn’t it?

As a long-time homeschooling family, diving into a topic and trying to learn how to teach that topic just a few days (no – make that minutes ) before one of our daughters comes to the table is nothing new.  But now, in these days of COVID-19, schools being closed, and everyone learning what it’s like to do school at home, we’re all taking a look at what homework really means. 

As I struggled to remember how to break out the equation, I knew I had known this at one point, but it just wasn’t there.  So what to do?

Google of course. 

And in seconds (literally – less than 10 seconds) I had the answer, with a very good explanation of how to get there, on my phone. A bit of explanation to Meg, and she got it easily.  She had learned it the year before – just needed a bit of a kick start.

But I couldn’t help but wonder…do most of us really need to memorize, and understand how to break down the quadratic equation?  I had a hard time justifying the value of this work to Megan. The practice, the discipline to make yourself do hard work, the sheer joy of numbers … she didn’t really buy any of that. 

But – being the over-achieving student that she has turned out to be (must have gotten that trait from her mother) – she took it in stride and finished the work. 

School is changing before our very eyes. Work is changing every day. What it takes to be successful in this world is very different than it was just a few decades ago.  The days of “go to a good college, get a degree, and be almost guaranteed a good job” – those are but fleeting memories. 

How we navigate this changing landscape, how we chart our own course through life, how we try to solve big problems that affect many people –   I believe those questions are much more important than the quadratic equation.  

Unless, perhaps, you plan to chart a heavy STEM-related course through this world.

Or, if you want more than anything else, to be a math teacher.  🙂

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