"Fortune favors the prepared mind." -Louis Pasteur
Potential readers ask, “Why did you write a book?” or “What is your book about?”
When I first purchased my own computer, I became quite enthralled
with what it could do from a writing standpoint. I had used many yellow
pads to write for the many years of teaching and publishing. The
computer was just the best thing for writing!
Meanwhile I had stories to tell from all those years and would often
mention them in conversation when the context seemed to indicate it.
People liked hearing about the stories. Of course I have always loved
math, loved teaching it, loved selling it, and thoroughly enjoyed all
the many teacher training sessions of varied types after the sales. So
you could say math was one of the things I hold close to my heart.
Meanwhile, as time passed, more and more teachers and families began
to question the way math was taught. They faced challenges in the
classroom as teachers trying to “teach the newest way” with sometimes
very difficult lesson plans and planning, and challenges with homework
as families used their past experiences in their elementary classes to
help with their children’s homework. Teachers, families, and students
were frustrated. It occurred to me that there was a story to tell about
instruction as well. So I began to write just as retirement hit and my
mother had died, both the same year, 2006.
The story to tell involves a timeline of change in mathematics
instruction from the 1940s until the present. It hinges on the
globalization of our economy and the books written by Tom Friedman that
helped me understand the changes we are facing. I began to understand
that the preparation of our students was more than significant; it was
critical that we prepare our young children for success in middle and
high school before they enter college or choose a career. I saw writing
this book as a patriotic duty, informing families, educators, and
leadership from the perspective I had gained as I worked in many, many
schools across the country.
There can be so much controversy about public education, but I found
great schools with much to crow about. I also found some not so great.
Someone asked once, “How do you judge a good school?” It is fairly easy,
actually. When I walk into a school, my first observation is about the
cleanliness of the school. To me, a clean school sends the message that
the school respects the community in which it is based. It doesn’t have
to be new or the most beautiful, or the most technologically up-to-date
(though that might soon be my third requirement for a good school). But
it does have to be clean! Thank you to every custodian who keeps going
until finished, and every teacher who refuses to leave his or her
classroom dirty or messy at the end of a hard day!
The second characteristic I value for a good school is the amount of
student work displayed in hallways, on bulletin boards, and in
classrooms. These displays represent respect for the intellect and
creativity of the students. This is serious stuff and most kids
appreciate their work being valued enough to show it off. Visit some
schools and notice the student work. I promise you will be amazed at
their imagination and originality.
Finally, the media attention to standards began to gnaw at me and I completed my career helping to implement No Child Left Behind
in my local area. Standards and comparing students’ achievement from
state to state gained heavy political interest. Comparisons with private
schools and private church schools, along with the home-schooling trend
seemed to indicate that public schools were all failing! Not a fair
judgment from what I had observed. So, I began writing with a focus on
explaining the trends of about fifty years, noting the influence of the
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (who have done an excellent
job of keeping math in the forefront of educational thought),
researching the standards from state to state and comparing them, and
sharing my own opinions about it all.
The Prepared Mind is the result of all that! I hope you want to get
the book and read it and find it helpful as you support public schools
and mathematics instruction in your local area. As Louis Pasteur
famously said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind!”