You should know that!

I was listening to episode #14 of Making Math Moments that Matter. This episode’s guest was Sunil Singh. One, I know I’m super behind on episodes and two, I’m very excited to order Sunil’s book Math Recess.  This post has nothing to do with Sunil, although I’m sure another post will be needed after I read his book.

Either Kyle or Jon (I was using the elliptical so I didn’t back it up to make a note) said they used to tell students “you should know that from previous years.” He went on to say they usually didn’t remember it. I think we can all relate. I know I’ve said that before, or at least thought it. I agree with Kyle and Jon that we shouldn’t use that phrase.

This brought up a thought from my lesson during the last few days, and I think it might be a better way to handle these situations. We introduce the radian circle in Geometry. We don’t assess over it, but we derive it, talking about the components we’ve learned throughout the year. My students always ask WHY are we doing this if it’s not part of our curriculum. I explain to my students about brain research and I tell them about how connections are made in the brain when you encounter new material. While they may not remember everything about the radian circle in the future, the next time they see it, the information they are exposed to can connect to the pathways we have created. Every time we encounter this topic, we strengthen the pathway.

Instead of saying, “you should know this from previous years,” we could say, you have already created pathways in your brain from previous years. Let’s talk about this again and strengthen those pathways. This verbiage empowers students to access previous information without making them feel stupid because they can’t remember it.