Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mathematics, are you there? English, are you there?

It was not difficult to decide who I wanted to write about. From the very beginning, I knew it wouldn't be an educator from the past, since several volumes must have been written about them, for sure. Consequently, I decided I would write about a contemporary educator, someone who has surprised me because I was not used to seeing him in that role. As a matter of fact, Adrián Paenza (for it is Mr Paenza I am writing about) is well known in the world of sports as a TV reporter, journalist and commentator, who has especialised in football and basketball. He has a vast experience in the media, having worked on the radio, TV and press. However, Mr Paenza is also a brilliant Mathematician, a university professor and the author of the best-selling books "Matemáticas, estás ahí?". Adrián Arnoldo Paenza was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 9th 1949. He was 5 years old when he started 2nd form, and only 14 when he started university (NB: in Argentina, the average age for children in 2nd form is 7, while students start university when they are about 18). He's got a BSc in Mathematics, as well as a PhD in the same field of studies, and he was awarded the Konex Prize on two occasions (the Konex Platinum in 2007 in the field of Science, and the 1997 Konex in the field of sports) apart from being part of the jury for sports in the year 2000. He is also the host of a TV programme called "Alterados por el pi" which has recently been awarded a Martín Fierro Award for cable television. An impressive record for a man whom most people used to associate exclusively with sports. However, what made me choose him as the topic for this essay was not his academic success. Besides being a sharp observer of reality, he has managed to get the attention and arouse the interest of thousands of children and adolescents who now see mathematics in a different light. Quoting Paenza, "Why does Maths pose so many problems for students? The problem lies in us, teachers. We provide answers to questions which the students have never asked. How boring it is to listen to someone who provides the solution for problems we do not have!... A teacher is not just someone who is there to provide answers, but to generate questions." In his opinion, education should be in charge of the best qualified teachers. Furthermore, he acknowledges the use of technology in the classroom, and compares "not being able to use a computer with having to study without books. With a clear view of today's education, Adrián Paenza embodies the teacher of the XXI century: someone capable of succeeding in different fields; somebody who loves teaching and doing research; a person who makes a difference. What he feels for Maths is what I feel for English. They are not that different anyway. It is not a question of providing answers, but of generating in students the need to ask questions. Touché, Mr Paenza.


1 comment:

Ronnie's in the house said...

I think Adrián Paenza has started a process whose results we will only be able to see many years from now. His statement about us teachers (or, in my case, teacher-to-be) having the answers to questions that students have not made is not only fascinating, but also remarkably accurate. We need to be prepared for the reality that we (both teachers and students) are immersed in. And I think that, as an educator, Mr Paenza has achieved this goal. He is leading the way, and in my opinion we should take his teachings into account.