Why, Why, Why?

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Why, Why, Why?

It was Albert Einstein who said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Have you ever tried to explain a complicated mathematical concept to a six-year-old? Try it! Find a six-year-old and try to explain logarithms or exponents. Better yet, try to explain long division. Not that difficult, right? Try it! Did they get it?

During my Elementary Math courses in college, we were taught that in order to teach something to a child, you have to explain WHY something happens. For instance, why do you follow specific steps when dividing? Where do those steps come from? What is the purpose of each step? What happens when those steps are mixed-up? Or better yet, what happens when you throw in a decimal!!!!! Come to think of it, maybe you shouldn’t say “decimal” to a 6-year-old. Or a 46-year-old. It’s a scary word.

What you’ll find is that the more you try to simplify it, the worse it gets; while the six-year-old is looking at you and probably contemplating how he or she can spider-climb up the wall.

This fall, as children are hunkering down in class, remember that they have amazingly creative and flexible minds. You can explain concepts to them that are difficult for adults to comprehend, simply because they take it at face value. They don’t try to overcomplicate things. When they struggle, it’s because the WHY is missing. Perhaps, everyone should look at the WHY in their lives. What you’ll find is that we all complicate life in some way or another. Take a hint from a six-year-old—keep it simple!