An adult teacher friend of mine is taking an Algebra class. This class uses Pearson MyLab. He shared a few questions with me and it’s no surprise he’s frustrated and not doing well. Why is stuff like this a barrier for anyone? To be a teacher or to graduate high school? Asking students to use poorly designed online math tools is only a path to people hating math.

## No Engagement

The MyLab website boasts of engagement. There is not one thing engaging about this. Could the web design be more plain? Take a lesson from Kahoot. We know gamification is engaging, a digital worksheet is not.

## Personalization is Not Self Paced

The website claims personalized learning. There is not one thing personalized about these math problems. It’s simply self paced. Let’s stop defining personalized learning this way.

## Where is the Context

“When will I ever use this?” Confidently I can say never. Math should not be students filling out contrived abstractions. Learning happens when we find meaning in what we are learning.

## Mathematical Practices

Students should be engaged in the 8 mathematical practices. These MyLab math problems I’ve seen contain NONE of the 8 practices.

## Your Self Worth is Not Stupid Math Problems

I have a degree in math. It’s not uncommon for someone to share with me their frustration with math problems they are doing. It makes them feel dumb when they are not dumb. “I’m not good at math.” LIES! There is no such thing as a math person. Your ability to crank out contextless algorithms is not a measure of your math ability. I like to bust out math problems from http://openmiddle.com which are higher critical thinking than traditional textbook problems. Without exception these folks I work with are perfectly capable of mathematical reasoning. They are math people. We all are.

## It’s Not Digital, It’s Different

Making math digital is not about putting the same math problems online. We need to do math differently. Check out http://teacher.desmos.com for some excellent examples of how technology improves math learning, is engaging, and is different.

I do feel like there is purpose in solving problems like this. As a physics teacher, I am all about making sure there are applications to the problems… but sometimes the “when am I ever going to use this” argument, honestly… I think is pretty lame. Sometimes we are learning things to expand our minds, to find new patterns, to make connections, to learn a new perspectives or ways of thinking. Can you imagine if some of humanities greatest minds never stretched themselves into new mathematical problems?! We wouldn’t even have Calculus! Let alone the modern physics we know today.

I also am tired of this argument beating up on math. I don’t directly use many of the lessons from courses I took in social studies about wars and booms / busts of empires… But that’s okay! I get it!! By understanding those events, I have a larger world view. Or even a child playing with play doh, they are most likely not going to be doing that as a job when they grow up, but it helps them build muscles, create, and start to explore. Sometimes we learn direct things for the indirect benefits.

Appreciate the comments, but I would argue that this is a false analogy. Your history lesson doesn’t connect to this contextualess problem at all. I am tired of math programs charging a ton of money to do obsolete and outdated math problems and practices. Where is the teacher in this? Poorly designed math programs do not inspire mathematicians. Let’s stop using this garbage as a replacement for engaging math lessons and applications.

What do you think of: https://blog.mrmeyer.com/ and Desmos?