Teaching calculus to young people: calculus discovery young people
The professor yelled when he asked this question. I’m used to people being boggled at the thought of young people learning calculus. I’m used to the blank stares, buggy eyes and puzzled looks, but this was a first.
I was at a math technology conference in Fall 2008, attended by professors, teachers, school administrators and tech coordinators. Everyone was interested in what new software and hardware could be useful in their classrooms. I was in a small slice of math geek paradise!
We were sitting down to lunch. I already knew Dr. Richard Delaware (University of Missouri at Kansas City) and Carolyn Anderson (Park University, Parkville, Missouri). Dr. Delaware was one of my husband Joe’s professors while he pursued his Masters in Statistics. Carolyn Anderson is an Associate Professor and has referred students to us for years. Both are excited about our kid’s calculus program and think kids ought to learn hard subjects.
We introduced ourselves to those we didn’t know and vice versa. After I said who I was and what I did, “I’m the owner of Mathhead Tutoring. I’m a math and calculus tutor and I teach calculus to kids 7-years-old and up”, the unnamed professor bellowed, “Why would anyone want to teach calculus to a 7-year-old!?!?! I want Johnny to be able to do ‘2+2 is 4. 4+4 is 8’!”. (Cue record scratch). Profs. Delaware, Anderson and I turned to look at him. Everything stopped for exactly 2.3 seconds. We couldn’t understand why he would be angry about someone else teaching calculus to kids.
After I saw the looks on Profs. Delaware and Anderson’s faces I got so tickled. I tried not to laugh. I imagined how my young students would react if he said that to them. They would probably shrug their shoulders and go back to what they were doing.
I teach calculus to kids because I can, because they are smart enough to learn it, because it gives them confidence and alleviates their fears about math. They love learning what the “big kids” are learning. The calculus gets them excited and they say to me, “Miss Lori, teach me THIS!!” In the process they get to do lots of fractions and decimals. They get to practice arithmetic without realizing it’s arithmetic and always come back for more. What’s bad about that? Nothing. The kids and I are having a blast. I know he’ll never have as much fun at his job as I do! I won’t stop as long as I can see the looks of delight on their faces when they discover something new.