Jenny Grother says learning can take many different forms.
Jenny Grother says learning can take many different forms. Warren Lynam

OPINION: Learning can take many different forms

HOW do we learn? It is a subject that has always interested me. When I was little, because we lived in the bush, I didn't go to school but spent a lot of time helping my father - whom I adored.

Papa taught me a lot of things - about a lot of things. I don't know if his specific intention was to 'teach', but he used a lot of very practical ideas to solve mathematical problems.

When calculating the area of an irregularly shaped paddock or the dimensions of a gate that was to be welded, Papa would use string and various other on-hand items to compartmentalise the problem.

He would use a piece of string and a pencil to draw circles or a piece of string to draw / indicate a straight line.

He would then use this information to apply a mathematical formula.

Perhaps this is where my interest in academic rigor began. As a teacher, teaching with academic rigor has a significant role in the strategies that I use.

At an interview for a teaching position, I was asked, "How do you manage recalcitrant students?"

My response? "That's easy. Teaching with academic rigor." Perhaps it is hardly surprising that I got that job.

When that job came to an end, one of my darling students said, "Gosh Miss J, I have just loved having you as my teacher. I have learned so many things. You have taught us so many of the things that Papa taught you and when I have to solve a problem, I think to myself, 'How would Papa have solved this.' I can use the maths from the maths book in a way that is different from anything else that I have ever done.

"You used bits of string and sticks to calculate mathematical problems that are really just jobs to be done... you have showed us why we are learning this stuff and where we can use it. Then you taught us how to use mathematical instruments to do mathematical drawing and I have just loved that. I've just learned so many things!"

Perhaps I should have accepted those kind words graciously and let the conversation end there. However, I responded, "Thank you, my darling. Tell me, what was the best and most interesting thing that you have learned?"

She replied, after a few seconds, "I've learned that beige is a colour."



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