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Math with Bad Drawings

Almost a decade into my teaching career, I’ve learned a lot—about recurring decimals, British slang, the life cycle of fidget spinners. But one lesson I seem to relearn in new ways every day: Deep thinking is a very, very delicate flower.

It blooms only under rare and perfect conditions, when you’ve given the seedling absolutely everything it needs.

It's always creepy when your students are as tall as you.

There’s no perfect recipe. What gets my 6th– and 8th-graders’ thoughts blooming might flop with my 7th-graders. This work is wonderfully and maddeningly specific. Each seedling presents its own unique and irreducible case. The best you can do is kneel down in the soil and try to help it along.

Even so, I find a few recurring themes: three crude reasons why deep thinking fails to bloom, and the hardy but colorless perennial of “rote learning” surfaces instead.

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