Dear Math

Dear Math, 

I’m sorry about the way I’ve treated you for the majority of my life. I can still remember the moment I turned on you, the moment I decided I wasn’t a “you-person”. It was in second grade when I didn’t pass the test on how to make change. Instead of attending my remedial math lesson, I hid in the classroom coat closet reading Ramona the Pest, swearing you off forever. I avoided you for the rest of my school experience. I even managed to get away with no math courses on my college transcript. It didn’t help that I spent ten years of my adult life as an English teacher, which sealed my fate as a “not a math person”. I called you names like boring and pointless for practically all of my childhood and most of my adulthood. It wasn’t until I took a statistics course just a few years ago when I realized that maybe…just maybe…I didn’t loathe you like I thought. 

I’ll never claim to be a non-math person again – and now I realize how foolish I was to accept the dichotomy of math and English. Two things can be true: I can be good at math and love to read and write. I can struggle to learn math, and I can enjoy the process. So, I’m sorry that it took me so long to come to this realization.Thanks for your patience, math. Please accept my apology.



One of the first math challenges of the year in Adventure studio was to write a letter to math. The above is an excerpt from my own letter. What if you were tasked with the challenge – what would you write, what story would your letter tell? Would your letter sound similar to mine? If you had to graph your relationship with math over the course of your life, how would it look? Has your relationship with math changed since you were in school? Do you consider yourself a “math person” or not?  

Our goal at The Village School is to cultivate a culture of learning around math that focuses on curiosity, appreciation, and deep understanding. We design our curriculum in hopes that our learner’s letters to math sound much different from mine.

Research suggests that learning math is most meaningful when mistakes are valued as much as a correct answer, and when focused on authentic tasks rather than rote memorization. We can confirm these ideas through our experience as educators in many school settings, and especially through our observations of our own learners over the past four years. We keep this research at the forefront of our curriculum design as we strive to support our learners in developing mathematical mindsets. 

Khan Academy supports our learners in developing their own understanding through mastery-based online courses. The adaptive online programing allows learners to move through the curriculum at their own pace, focusing on mastery of specific math skills. Mistakes made in Khan are met with more learning opportunities instead of the traditional punitive consequences. Completing a course in Khan Academy requires a learner to fully engage with the learning process – they are the active participants determining the content and the pace of their learning. 

Great Problems are an opportunity for learners to collaborate on open-ended mathematical tasks. Learners engage in these In Discovery studio great problems take the shape of collaborative morning warm-up challenges. Adventure learners complete at least three great problems each session, spending sometimes up to one hour working on the solution to a single problem. 

Quests are a chance for our learners to engage with real-world, authentic math tasks. Science curriculum in Discovery and Adventure studio is delivered primarily through project-based learning Quests and often requires learners to engage in specific math skills that are in addition to their set curriculum on Khan Academy. Recent quests in Adventure studio include: The Physics quest, which required velocity and motion calculations using advanced math formulas, and the Money & Me quest required monthly budget, annual percentage rate, loan, and tax calculations. Recent quests in Discovery include: The Game Design quest where learners developed understanding around probability and statistics, and the Community Meal quest where learners are working on calculations that go into preparing a meal as well as the logistics of an event.

Math Coaching is an additional support we offer for our learners. Our Math Lab is open for learners for set times each week during both studio’s morning work sessions where they have access to a math educator to support them in their work on Khan Academy, Great Problems, and even Quest related math tasks. The dedicated time and space for math has been helpful in providing learners with the right level of structure and support in a self-directed learning environment.  

The learning opportunities focused on math go far beyond mastery on Khan Academy, and place learners in situations where mathematical reasoning and understanding is authentically relevant. The four elements of our math curriculum: Khan, Great Problems, Quests, and Math Coaching, are intentionally designed to instill an understanding, appreciation, and curiosity around math that hopefully results in a letter that sounds something like this…

Dear Math, 

Wow! Everywhere I look I see you. I see you in the design of the natural world, and in the architecture of the city where I live. You play such an important role in my life and in the world around me. Thank you for being patient with me, especially when I’m learning something new. Sometimes you can be really tricky, but I know if I’m patient with myself, I will figure you out. I’m so glad I’m a “you person!” 

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