“5-Year-Olds Can Do Calculus” by Maria Droujkova -collecting comments

What if we figured out ways for young kids to play with ideas from calculus, algebra, and other mathematical subjects beyond arithmetic? Last week, The Atlantic published Dr. Maria Droujkova’s interview, “5-Year-Olds Can Do Calculus” by Luba Vangelova. It started a broad international discussion, with follow-up interviews by Canada’s “Globe and Mail” and UK’s “The Times,” and translations into Japanese and Russian by news agencies. Droujkova and her colleagues at Natural Math are aggregating major themes from the comments:
  • How can we create and sustain environments where kids are free to learn, and adults are free to help them?
  • Can young children understand abstractions? Can they deal with the formal language of mathematics? If they can, will it hurt their development in some way?
  • Many grown-ups believe that young math will finally give them a second chance at making sense of algebra and calculus.
  • But what about calculating and memorizing? We need more research on balancing concepts and technical skills.
  • What can young kids actually do with algebra or calculus? How can they play with these ideas, or apply them to their daily lives?
  • Many people recognized our activities as similar to what they are doing with their kids – or what their parents did with them. What difference does this casual, everyday early math make for kids whose parents understand and love mathematics?
Some discussion and follow-up links:

Why I an teaching a math circle

At some point, I have compiled a short list of reasons why I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching a math circle.  I love:

  • -the equality and feeling of mutual respect and attention that develops between me and math circle participants
  • the democracy/lack of authority that shows us the “right answer”
  • seeing the  value alignment and  deep intellectual friendship that develops among the participants
  • sharing children’s excitement when they realize their own powers
  • the feeling of freedom they develop when they get rid of their own mental blocks
  • the intellectual stimulation of choosing the problems and personalizing and  teaching them to a particular audience
  • when children  realize that they feel happy from doing a challenging job
  • observing their self-discovery
  • observing as children come up with amazing solutions and counter-intuitive discoveries
  • getting a fresh view of the beauty and awesomeness of the world we observe and create  – thus multiplying my own happiness