Relevance Does Not Equal Interest

So, we’re done with taking the standardized-test-to-graduate (the AIMS) and in the AIMS Math class I teach I pretty much can take the curriculum freestyle.

Last semester we did statistics projects were the students did presentations on some topic they were interested in using numbers. (For example, a student had a good one proving a certain football player would have made a record had he not sustained an injury mid-season.)

This semester I was going to focus on financial math, given these are graduating seniors who will be immediately applying what they learn. There’s high relevance so I thought it should go smoothly.

The result: not so smooth. There was pretty much apathy all around. So I did a quick survey to see if there was some topic they’d prefer to switch to instead, and they wanted to do geometry. Not necessarily the find-the-square-footage-of-your-house geometry, but things like proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem.

Well, I can handle that. They seem much happier, even though the relevance of the material (or at least what they’re doing at this moment) is lower.

It seems a constant catchphrase that real-life relevance translates into student interest, but I find while there is correlation, the overriding category is having the topic be inherently interesting.

One Response

  1. I have found the same thing in my math clubs. The more abstract lessons/activities are often the most popular.

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