I hear it every day from my own students. "You don't teach us," they mutter under their breath, or sometimes brazenly out loud. "No one gets this," individual students remark beneficently on behalf of everyone. And so I struggle. Every day. Every class. Every interaction.
Remember how irrational numbers petrified the bejesus out of the Pythagoreans? Or the interminable time it took mankind to introduce a zero into arithmetic? Recall the centuries of debate that occurred over whether negative numbers are valid or not?
The field needs an agenda that more deeply involves scientists and engineers, brings more content expertise to classrooms, and reforms the systems that will have big, transformative effects on what, and how, young people learn.
Our children don't lose their curiosity once they enter school, but they often lose their drive to learn. Once we start treating the outdoors as a living laboratory, children will continue exploring the things that attracted their attention in the first place.
If we want future adults to learn to use mathematics then we must show them how mathematics is used in ways and situations that are genuine and that are relevant to their own experience. This isn't really all that hard.
College students who graduate with engineering degrees have a moral obligation to help the world's poor and under-served with basic needs, like gaining access to clean water, adequate lighting or cooking fuel.
Recently while sitting in my neighborhood Starbucks I looked up from my reading to find myself looking in the face of a ten-year-old. "I know you" he said. "You did those electrical experiments in my classroom." Ah celebrity.