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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Math and the creative right brained child

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As a child, I remember sitting at our grand old oak table doing my arithmetic homework. Yes, back then it was called arithmetic.  I remember very clearly having the answers to the math questions, but not the steps to get there.  I was trying to “make up’ the steps.. come up with anything the teacher would mark correct.  I was in tears with frustration because all I wanted to do was go outside and roller skate. (again, dating myself here)   I desperately wanted to play, but here I was with this stupid homework making up steps that a teacher would mark correct.

I didn’t know I was a right brain thinker.  I didn’t know that bit of news until a billion years later. I did learn to memorize the teachers’ ways to find answers… first coming up with my own way then doing what I was taught by rote methods.

As a creative thinking child, I was completely unsupported in the school system.  I was, however, one of the more fortunate ones:  like many right brain thinkers, we also develop a pretty functional left brain to adapt.  Many of us received good marks in school. But did we all dread going to school each day, I wonder?

I can honestly say I hated school.. it felt like a torture chamber.  Nobody would have known that because my marks were good and I was a ‘nice’ little girl.

I also remember in Grade 6 writing and illustrating a story – it involved research, creativity, imagination and it fed my young soul.  That I remember happily.

People like me adapted as best we could.. we learned to  shut down the leaps of excitement when we made random out of the blue discoveries – because leaps of excitement were ‘inappropriate’ to the classroom (and later the office.)  We sat quietly in high school with brilliant answers in our head that we wouldn’t share… finding out much later in life that in fact, those answers were genius and far ahead ‘of their time’.

We learned that art and writing were nice hobbies, but we’d better get a real job.  (Sadly not much has changed)   We learned that our often brilliant philosophies and concepts were ‘just our imagination’ and therefore had no value.  And we did what we could  to NOT talk about our intuitive abilities.. because we were sure we’d probably be committed or burn in hell.

We didn’t learn that not all children felt trapped in school.

We learned that it was bad that we didn’t like team sports. I loved independent sports.. I excelled in track and bombed in team sports.  I adored racing wildly down steep hills on roller skates. Again, signs of the right brain child.

But what about those kids more dominantly right brained? Who couldn’t help but jump up in excitment?  Who couldn’t sit still?  Who didn’t learn to memorize the teachers linear detailed way of solving problems and therefore failed with every try?   Yes, I’m describing da Vinci as a child, or Einstein, or perhaps today’s children diagnosed with adhd, behaviour disorders, and learning disabilities.

Way back in my childhood days,  nobody knew a thing about the concept of left brain/ right brain dominant thinkers. In fact science was only beginning to recognize there was a use for our right brain.. having previously thought it served no purpose!!!!

Now we know much more… and yes, the school systems are evolving, with more schools popping up that recognize the creative right brain way of thinking.  May the wee right brain dominant children soon fully get the support and encouragement they need to be their brilliant selves and may the more predominant left brain children learn the tools to access their right brain answers!

Funny, I remember believing that in Russia children were educated based on their strengths and gifts.  That’s all I understood about it and I remember wishing there was a way for me to go to school in Russia. When the rest of the world was ranting about the cold war and the dangers of Russia, I wanted to go to school there.  Imagine that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.. comments welcome!

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