“The universe is the teacher of all things.”
I believe that my job as a teacher is to teach kids the magic of math; to carry on a long and noble tradition of inquiry. You see, math emerged as a religious quest to uncover the mysteries of the universe. “Sacred Geometry” emerged as mathematicians realized a mystical and crystalline structures in everything around them. I do not believe that they found this beauty through closely observing mathematical worksheets that their teacher gave them.
I recently read an amazing Popular Science article, “Behind New York City’s Macroscopic Snowflakes“. Even if you don’t read the article, you should absolutely check out the photographs of the snowflakes. There are the most amazing photographs of snowflakes, but they look alien and bizarre compared to the crystals you have pictured in your mind. There is also a great deal of learning to be done through the close observation of these fractal polygons. How many of us [math teachers] stop to smell these roses?
It instantly reminded me of an podcast I’d listened to on Radiolab. In their piece, “Crystal Bliss,” they introduce Wilson Bentley, the first human to photograph a snowflake. And even though you have likely seen his iconic photos, he received a lot of criticism from other photographers and scientists of the time. Apparently, Bentley doctored his photos. Apparently, his main goal was to capture the “perfect” snowflake. In this way, he was more of an artist than a scientist. We have much to learn from appreciating the world through artistic lenses (both real and metaphorical). It is a shame that some see science and art as exclusive. I hope to inspire my students to blur this distinction.
And so, dear parents, I hope that you take the quest that I am on with my own students: take a look around you. There are miracles, both evolving and crystallized, all around us. And, they are just waiting to teach us.