Since February, I have begun a new workout at a place called Fierce 45. It is a local studio that uses the Lagree Method. The easiest way to explain it is a 45 -minute workout that’s Pilates on super-duper steroids. Although I’ve spent most of my adult life working out in various ways (marathons, weight lifting, P90X, Insanity…to name a few), this is by FAR, the hardest and most effective workout I have ever done.
What does Fierce 45 have to do with learning math (or any other subject, for that matter)? At the beginning of each workout, there’s a chalkboard where each person writes his/her name and intention. The purpose of the intention is in knowing that the class is going to quickly get to a place where one doesn’t think they can finish and rather than giving up, can remember what brought them there in the first place. It’s amazing how this happens in every workout, and I must tell my mind that I am strong and can do hard things. Plus, I know that I have survived it before and can do it again. Even better, I can bring this mental strength outside of the studio to tackle other hard moments of my life because I know what I am capable of.
A lot of times, both children and adults shy away from math because it is “hard.” While this is 100% true, it’s important that our students have the mental fortitude to tackle all subjects if/when they become difficult. We are way more capable than we usually give ourselves credit for. Unfortunately, what sometimes happens is that kids feel so pressured to do things quickly and correctly the first time. But that’s not the point. The point is to emphasize that over time, even despite struggles, we will conquer the things we set our minds to. Sometimes this can take more time than we realize.
My last teaching job was at new school called Aurora Quest K-8 where I taught 6th/7th grade math for gifted and advanced learners. This past May, the school had a reunion as the first Kindergarten kids in the building were graduating from 8th grade. The kids from my last class were graduating from high school and many came to the reunion. It was a night I will never forget, as so many students told me that while they struggled with math in 6th grade, they had learned to value the struggle and many had ended up liking AP calculus. I had students going to schools like Stanford, Cornell University, and Yale to study math related subjects. Trust me when I say that there were many days when these then 6th graders had written math off as too hard and not useful. But what had obviously occurred in the last 6 years was an acceptance of the struggle and appreciation of its value.
Just as every time when I go workout, I get to a place where I want to give up, we must recognize that students are going to go to that place also. Instead, we must help them cultivate the strength to push through the hard moments, even if they don’t always pay off. Because the next time, that knowledge just might be the very thing that gets them where they need to be.