GeneralMindset & OrganizationSummer Math

Getting lost on the way to school


Relatively recently we moved to a new area.  It was full steam ahead when we arrived here.  Registering our kids for school, uniforms, school books the hoops you jump through when purchasing a house, and all the other ‘to-do’s’ that go with a transatlantic move.


So of course we got our daily life activities organized and running on autopilot.  One of these activities is to take my daughter to school, which of course hasn’t been a problem.  A beautiful drive through the Irish countryside looking at cows, sheep, wind turbines and rolling hills is a beautiful way to start the day ….. until yesterday.

Yesterday, as we drove her the usual route. Unfortunately, there had been an accident so we came upon a police road block.

For a moment I thought about it.  This is the only way to school that I know.

I felt a little anxious.

What am I supposed to do now?

These are Irish country roads, there must be another way.  I started to drive in the direction I thought I should.

The GPS really wasn’t very helpful, it had us, quite literally, going in circles.

The feeling of being anxious getting my daughter to school late changed to frustration that she most certainly was going to be late.

Then my temper started to rear it’s ugly head.  I wasn’t angry at any one thing in particular.  All the emotions I was feeling just seemed to weave themselves into ‘being angry’.

That’s when we had the conversation:

Do we just give up and take you home, or will we try one more time on yet another route?

This was the turning point.

We tried one more way.  It worked. She was delivered to school.

When I got home & sat for a few minutes with a cup of coffee I realized, even though I use this analogy with parents and students I work with on a daily basis, getting lost and finding alternative routs is a beautiful analogy for mathematics studies.

I had however forgotten the truly horrible emotions that sometimes bubble to the surface before an alternative route is discovered.


  1. Getting lost in mathematics is where learning begins.
  2. Being lost and finding the alternative route in mathematical problem solving is an experience students must experience to truly learn.
  3. Asking for and receiving directions offers up an opportunity to ease the frustrations of finding the alternative route, but for someone else to take over the driving eliminates the possibility of learning and retaining the new route.
  4. Understanding the emotions that we experience whilst attempting to ‘figure out’ a problem, and learning to manage those emotions is a huge part of any learning experience.

And here's the Tweetable!

“Getting lost & experiencing the frustrations of finding and alternative route is the very foundation of math learning and success.”


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