6 Ways Learning Math Is Like Being in a Casino

The view from my window at the Aria.

I’m in Las Vegas for the DevLearn conference this week. Since I’m always thinking math teaching and now I’m seeing casinos, I’m noticing some comparisons between the two. Here they are:

You don’t know if you’ll be successful when you sit down at the table.

We think math is something kids can just learn if they sit down and focus. But learning math is as squirrely and unpredictable as the gambling table.

Sometimes it’s exciting and sometimes it’s stressful.

When a kid’s totally getting it, it’s very exciting. And when they’re not, they’re pretty stressed.

Everyone has a preference.

Just like some people prefer slots over blackjack, kids will tend toward liking one type of math over the other. Even grown-ups do this – I can’t stand calculus.

It’s not about who you think it’s about.

When you’re in a casino, you think it’s about you. But it’s not. It’s all about the house.

When a kid’s doing math, it should be all about them. But it’s not.

Often it’s about the bureaucracy, politics and laws surrounding education. Luckily in Texas, where I live, homeschoolers don’t have to satisfy any official requirements. But often parents will impose guidelines similar to the state.

Once a child is asked to follow the book, or keep to a schedule that isn’t their own, it’s no longer about them. It’s now all about the house.

There are plenty of distractions to get your mind off the real goal.

In the casino it’s noise, lights and fast images that keep you from making sensible decisions with your money.

At the study desk, it’s the clock ticking away as a child isn’t learning fast enough. It’s the textbook with so many pictures and words designed to appeal to every learning style – instead of just that child’s learning style. It’s the pressure of, “If I don’t get this, I’m totally going to be in trouble.”

So many ways to keep a kid from just relaxing and learning.

If you play according to the house rules, the house always wins.

Casinos aren’t able to afford the opulence by chance. They make a ton of money because the statistics are in their favor.

The rules of learning math are set by the house these days. Very few people allow children to discover, experience and enjoy math without quickly stacking the deck against them with things like the Common Core Standards.

Play the house rules, and the house wins. Play the Common Core Standards rules, and the government wins.

And then we’re back at #4, above.

Your thoughts?

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