Mathematician Parent: David Wees

Most parents aren’t professional mathematicians. But there are a few. This is the fifth in a series of interviews with mathematician parents with the goal of helping parents integrate math teaching into parenting.

I am quite excited to feature David Wees who teaches at Stratford Hall in Vancouver. David and I have been on numerous #mathchats together (he’s @davidwees on Twitter) and I’ve found him engaging, fun and knowledgeable. He publishes the website 21st Century Educator.

MathFour: Thanks so much, David for taking the time to answer some questions. First, can you share some more about your degree and career? How long have you been in math?

David: I have a bachelor of science in mathematics with nearly 60 credits in honors level mathematics. I finished my degree in 1998, but have never been officially a mathematician. Instead, I teach mathematics in middle school and high school, and have recently moved into a new position as a learning specialist for technology.

MathFour: Tell me about your family – how many kids do you have and how old are they? How do your family members feel about math?

David: I have a wife, and a nearly 5 year old son. My wife found math to be painfully difficult for her entire career, but hides it well around our son. My son loves math. He recently confided in me that he knows math only slightly less than me, but that I know more technology, and he knows more science.

MathFour: How cute! And great that your wife tries to keep the math environment positive.

Do you have any worries about your son academically? In particular, do you think he will do better in math than in other subjects?

David: I have no concerns at all about my son academically. He is bright, creative, and independently minded. He will almost certainly do better in math than his other subjects. Today he ripped a book because the “binding was loose.” So we told him to find $11 dollars in his piggy bank. He pulled out five $2 coins and one $1 in about a minute, carefully counting by 2s for the first $10, and then adding another dollar.

MathFour: How do you play with your son? Do you inject math a lot?

David: I think we play ordinary games, with some exceptions. Certainly we include mathematical play in our sessions. We count everything, and introduce different ways of counting. We play dice games and practice adding small numbers. We stack blocks in patterns. I’ve also recently introduced a “how can we get this number game.” For example, “How can we get 5?” My son responded with “1 and 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 makes five. Hrmm. 2 and 3 makes five. 4 and 1 makes five.”

MathFour: Great game – one which I’ll include on the Count 10 Read 10 site!

Do you think you speak with your son or behave differently than other parents because you have a math background?

David: Definitely. We spend much more time talking about numbers than other parents do.

MathFour: Has your son ever expressed negative thoughts about math?

David: I’ve not noticed any negative thoughts from my son on math, with the exception that he thinks I know more math than he does. He did ask me today about the odd, even pattern. “Why does it matter if a number is odd or even?” I told him it helped us know quickly if we could split the number into two equal parts. I don’t think he was terribly impressed by that explanation.

MathFour: LOL! I guess that is a little unimpressive.

Your son is almost five, so I’m guessing he’s not had many math teachers. Do you anticipate you’ll ever disagree with any of his math teachers? And what do you think you’ll do if that happens?

David: My son is just starting school. As I work at the same school as he will be attending, I will have to handle disagreements with his math teachers very carefully.

MathFour: Now to change direction a little to a more worldview of math. What do you see as the biggest challenge in math education today?

David: Mathematics, as it is usually taught, is neither interesting or relevant to students. Given that relevance and engagement are key to deep learning of a subject, it pretty much means that in most generations of people, the vast majority of them lack any functional numeracy.

MathFour: What do you see great happening in the world of math education?

David: These types of conversations are amazing in my mind. I love that I can speak my mind about problems in math education and not have everyone jump down my throat.

MathFour: What advice can you give to non-mathematician parents that might help them raise their kids to like and appreciate math.

David: Count lots. Play number games early. Treat learning mathematics as important as learning how to read. Spend time playing and learning early math with your kids. Don’t let your kids learn that worksheets and rote memorization are math.

MathFour: Wow, that was awesome, David! Thanks so much for your time and sharing with us.

How about You? What are your questions for David? Ask them in the comments or connect with him on Twitter. And don’t forget to check out all the great stuff on his website!

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One Response to Mathematician Parent: David Wees

  1. “Why does it matter if a number is odd or even?”

    Hmmmmm, does he know about binary? Can he count to 1023 on his fingers?

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