It’s Sunday evening and I have officially arrived at the end of my summer. Despite the fact that I get a slow, gentle reintroduction back into the routine of school life (a week of pre-planning and a few days of “field studies” with students stands between me and the true first day of school)… I still have that terrifying feeling I get this time every year like nights and weekends will cease to exist and this is the last time I will have a moment to myself until next summer and I better hold tight.
All this fear and anxiety is, of course, a bit silly – I look forward to the rhythm and structure of the school year, the sense of purpose that I feel when I’m working hard each day. But in other ways the impending mental and emotional shift as I transition back into my teacher self is significant. In summer I own my time, my thoughts, and have freedom to explore and to play.
So before I am again plunged deep into the waters of the year, I want to celebrate the time I spent this summer doing what I wanted. I got so much out of the three big (mathematical) events of my summer: working with Dawson on the Math and Music class in Nashville, attending Twitter Math Camp in St. Louis, and participating in Henri Picciotto’s “Reimagining High School Math” workshop in NYC. In the spaces between, I was able to read or reread (among other books not for school) The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, The Calculus of Friendship, A Mathematician’s Lament, Flatland, and Creating Innovators. I slowed down, I slept, I sketched and folded and daydreamed and spent time noticing and enjoying the world outside.
I thought I’d share a few quotes from my reading that resonated with me: about the importance of exploring, being curious, asking questions. Here’s hoping my time this summer spent playing translates to renewed passion, and reinforces my sense of purpose about the work to be done. Here’s to a fresh start and a new year.
“In mathematics, Erdos’s style was one of intense curiosity, a style he brought to everything else he confronted. Part of his mathematical success stemmed from his willingness to ask fundamental questions, to ponder critically things that others had taken for granted.” (The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, pg. 21)
“Students don’t have to be blocked from dreaming by the fact that they haven’t learned what they need to know to realize that dream. On the contrary, innovators are most interested in dreams that take them where they don’t have learning.” (Creating Innovators, pg. 85)
“Math is not about following directions, it is about making new directions.” (A Mathematician’s Lament, pg. 31)
“To do mathematics is to engage in an act of discovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration; to be in a state of confusion – not because it makes no sense to you, but because you gave it sense and you still don’t understand what your creation is up to; to have a breakthrough idea; to be frustrated as an artist; to be awed and overwhelmed by an almost painful beauty; to be alive, damn it.” (A Mathematician’s Lament, pg. 37)
“We are all born into this world, and at some point we will die and that will be that. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our minds and the wonderful and ridiculous things we can do with them. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to have fun.” (A Mathematician’s Lament, pg. 106)