“What we need to work on in this country is getting comfortable with struggle in learning, with the discomfort that comes from not knowing something.”
~Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World.

At BASIS Independent McLean, we are eager to connect with fellow educators and educational programs. On September 6, our campus had the honor of hosting Richard Ruscyzk, co-author of the wildly popular Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) textbooks. For those who did not attend or who may not have heard of him, Richard is leading what Peg Tyre in The Atlantic dubbed “the math revolution.”

The AoPS textbooks and approach to learning have sparked an online school and community 160,000 strong, including the International Math Olympiad students and math enthusiasts across the globe. In fact, one of our Subject Expert Teachers, Mr. Vern Williams, who The Washington Post's Jay Matthews called "one of the best math teachers in the country," employs AoPS to great sucess.

At the heart of Mr. William's pedagogy and the AoPS approach is the idea that we are teaching humans how to think, not training robots how to compute. The traditional approach of solving for "X" over and over again just doesn’t apply anymore. The world is changing fast. Even 5 years from now, reality will be something we couldn't have possibly envisioned. Today’s students have to be prepared for that reality, whatever it might be. They have to be able to think, to reason, and to wonder why. In short, they have to be good problem solvers.

So, how do we create good problem solvers? The short answer is that we teach our students to be kids again. Younger children are naturally great problem solvers as Richard pointed out, but “somewhere between being three and being 19, we’ve lost the resiliency.” It is critical to teach kids that the struggle of finding an answer doesn't mean they are failing; it means they are learning.  

Richard advised parents to do the following:

 - Seek out what your kids are passionate about and give them time to pursue those areas. During high school, children's time will be filled with homework, college applications, and activities geared towards college acceptances. Let your children pursue activities that they enjoy.

 - Teach your children to ask lots of questions, especially if they don't understand something. Let them know that making mistakes is okay and that failure is a natural part of the learning process.

- Encourage your child to never give up. It may take breaking the problem down, or looking at it in a new way, but eventually your child will get there, and in that process, he/she will have learned something new. 

- Take a break from jobs and activites that are only designed to get your child into college. Let your 16-year-old work in a summer job where he/she can learn valuable life skills. 

Thank you, Richard, for visiting us at BASIS Independent McLean!

BASIS Independent McLean is a Preschool-Grade 12 private school in McLean. Join us at an upcoming information event to learn more by clicking here. We are currently accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year.