For next few days, REI will DOUBLE your gift to the Access Fund - up to $65,000. Donate Now!
Mountain Project Logo

Learning to rock-climb is changing how I’ll teach math.


Original Post
Nate Tastic · · 88,4,108,50, 80 · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10

I kept asking my teachers why we needed to do the math. Their answer was always, "You'll need it when you're older" or something super vague along those lines.

They were wrong. I never needed it. Until I started climbing, that is. Damn it! I should have listened. :-)

https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2013/10/30/im-learning-to-rock-climb-its-changing-how-ill-teach-math/

Math was always difficult for me. I barely made it through Algebra in college but, I never had something to apply it to. I never had the "why." Now I do.

Funny how climbing rocks makes you want to go back to school and learn again. Learn again for the first time, that is. Such is life.

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 915

I’ve been doing math for almost 30 years now. I think the process of learning how to teach showed me what we actually use math for. Class certainly didn’t.

I mean, you’re right, the way math is taught at lower levels is often completely disconnected from real life. I recall being taught the foundations of set theory in the 7th grade. I was in grad school before I saw any of that again. Physics helped me become a better climber, and understand the geometry of a problem. I think that pure mathematics should not be taught until college, at least, because it takes a lot of personal development before that sort of abstraction is interesting, let alone tractable. Teach kids geometry in terms of building things, designing things. Teach them algebra in terms of budgeting things, planning things. Teach them calculus to bridge the gap between the two.

The article is a cool treatise on how learning something can make you a better teacher in other fields, but I don’t really see how learning to climb and learning math are that similar aside from that, having taught both.

Christopher Smith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Agreed with Petsfed.  I'm a massive math nerd and actually use quite alot of math everyday in my job and I can't stand how most of my teachers taught math.  Many of them essentially punished me too for being able to do algebra in my head.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

I never really could get into simple machine physics until I started looking at belay systems.  Cool connection!  Thanks for sharing.

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240

I always liked math. Absolute value always annoyed the heck out of me growing up because you are told just to accept it... later on you find out there is a formula that proves it and when I finally found that out I was much happier.

Nate Tastic · · 88,4,108,50, 80 · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10

They didn't have to get all crazy with their whys. And it didn't have to be specifically about climbing, per se. Showing us, say, a 5-minute video about real life situations where certain types of math are important, at certain times, might have helped; versus "shut up and do what you're told" style of teaching and attitudes.

To give teachers the benefit of the doubt, however, how do you zero in on topics that certain people might be attracted to and this to help them see a real-life scenario where they might one day put into practice what they are learning etc? Maybe they can't. I dunno. Either way, it might have helped to put a face to the numbers, so to speak. At least for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnoL8hiN65A

Note: I realize many people are able to make the connections on their own and this without the extra guidance of teachers, mentors, the adults in their life etc. Not trying to imply my lack of learning math to a certain level, when I was younger, is somehow anyone else's responsibility at this point in my life. More a hindsight is 20/20 thing, I suppose. Climbing makes me want to learn math again, and this so I can understand better many of the topics related to both math and climbing that are talked about here on MP and elsewhere, that's all.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Well, usually it helps to get to know the kids...interest surveys can be helpful as well, though harder to manage with 150+ students.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 135

Lots of math is really abstract until you find an application for it, and that may not come for years after the fact.  I don't know if you ever learned what an imaginary number is (i = √-1), but I was a math nerd and learned this concept, and could use it, which no understanding of what it actually meant.  It was just one of those things that I was taught.  When I started taking fluid dynamics engineering courses years later, I learned that you could model all sorts of really cool things with this concept.  It was really helpful.  But again, it was years later.

Using rock climbing will not help kids learn math if the same kids who don;'t think they'll need algebra think they will never rock climb.  But there are all sorts of real life tings that can be modeled with math, you just need to be creative with how you teach it.  Unfortunatly, there are not a whole lot of really creative teachers out there.  You also need to get past the mentality of "you need to know this to pass the test."

Reezy Sneezy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0
ViperScale . wrote:

I always liked math. Absolute value always annoyed the heck out of me growing up because you are told just to accept it... later on you find out there is a formula that proves it and when I finally found that out I was much happier.

I can't believe I have an MP account or am responding to this, but what you're saying makes an absurdly nonexistent amount of sense.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970
Matt Himmelstein wrote:

Disagree. There are many creative teachers. Current education requirements and dictates have really stripped away all their freedom and time to be creative. 

Nate Tastic · · 88,4,108,50, 80 · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10
Aerili wrote:

Disagree. There are many creative teachers. Current education requirements and dictates have really stripped away all their freedom and time to be creative. 

I have to assume class size has contributed to that as well. Teachers don't have as much time to dedicate to each student. Thank goodness for math labs. 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,576
Nate Tastic wrote:

 Thank goodness for math labs. 

Judging by most writing in these forums, I vote for spelling labs.

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 324
Nate Tastic wrote:

I have to assume class size has contributed to that as well. Teachers don't have as much time to dedicate to each student. Thank goodness for math labs

When I first read that, I thought it said "meth labs", and all I could think was, "those are better for getting kids interested in chemistry than math..."

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240
Reezy Sneezy wrote:

I can't believe I have an MP account or am responding to this, but what you're saying makes an absurdly nonexistent amount of sense.

www.math.tamu.edu/~stecher/171/absoluteValueFunction.pdf

Nate Tastic · · 88,4,108,50, 80 · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10
Andrew Krajnik wrote:

When I first read that, I thought it said "meth labs", and all I could think was, "those are better for getting kids interested in chemistry than math..."

Nah. 

Breaking Bad, on the other hand, did wonders for getting kids interested in chemistry. 

Nate Tastic · · 88,4,108,50, 80 · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10
Jake Jones wrote:

Judging by most writing in these forums, I vote for spelling labs.

That and grammar labs. But we're focusing on math right now! Seriously, I can only handle so much extracurricular activity right now with all this climbing I'm doing.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

It is a hoot to hear climbers, who invest huge amounts of time and energy---and sometimes their entire lives---attempting to solve utterly pointless rock and mountain climbing puzzles of no earthly use to anyone, speak of the necessity of mathematics to attach itself to something "relevant" and not "abstract."

That said, we don't oblige everyone to learn the basics of rock climbing, and a good thing too.

Reezy Sneezy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0
ViperScale . wrote:

www.math.tamu.edu/~stecher/171/absoluteValueFunction.pdf

Functions don't prove definitions my dude...

IcePick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100

2+2=5.   That’s what my kids tell me.

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240
Reezy Sneezy wrote:

Functions don't prove definitions my dude...

Yea didn't really follow the link maybe what they said it was talking about was different than what was really in it /shrug whatever.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Learning to rock-climb is changing how I’ll tea…"
in the General Climbing

Log In to Reply