Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Passion leads to learning

This week we learned about M.C. Escher. I was gathering information for a lesson on tessellations but I learned more than I bargained for! M.C. Escher failed high school after he failed his final exams in 4 subjects. He admits that he was poor at arithmetic and algebra and never understood abstract mathematical concepts. He went on to trade school and decided to become a graphic designer. Almost 2o years later he was inspired by the patterns on a Moorish castle and became fascinated by the idea of regular division of a plane. He wrote, "It remains an extremely absorbing activity, a real mania to which I have become addicted, and from which I sometimes find it hard to tear myself away." This passion lead to writing a book on plane symmetry and to becoming an accomplished research mathematician, as well as a famous artist.

I think his life is a profound lesson. I think it's important to teach my children basic concepts, but I can't expect them to excel in any subject until they feel a passion for that subject. So how do I make my children feel passionately about a subject? Honestly, I don't think I can. It's like trying to make my children like a new food. I can introduce the food, I can make them try a little but ultimately they have to decide if they're going to love it. Last week I finally convinced Princess to try soup for the first time in two years and her response was positive (thank goodness). When we had soup again last night she said she needed more because she loves soup!

I've been beating Thinker over the head with fractions for years. This year I finally decided enough was enough. I told him he could decide if and when he was going to study math. Well, there was no studying for several days but then this morning he covered three sections. Now don't get me wrong, I believe parents are responsible for giving their children the building blocks of an education. Children need to be taught to read, write and do basic arithmetic but sometimes it takes stepping back and letting go to let them discover their own abilities and passions.

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