Teaching Opinion

A Mathematical Model for the Gratitude We Spread

By John T. McCrann — November 25, 2015 1 min read
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Dear readers,

It may strike some readers as a little odd that the guy who was against saying “thank you” at family conferences last week would be writing a Thanksgiving-themed blog. Well, our principal emailed this article last

week and it got me thinking. If I accept the premise that being grateful is good for our health (something which I feel like I have experienced personally), then shouldn’t I be interested in promoting a habit of thankfulness in my students and in the world?

We are studying exponential models in my course. A number of textbooks and web resources use the idea of a chain letter (a letter that threatens some curse or promises some blessing if it is re-sent x times) as a context to have students explore exponential growth.

See Also: Six Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson

My thought was to take this basic idea and turn it into a means of spreading gratitude then tracking how much gratitude we spread.

I wanted to share what I am doing and to give you all the chance to think along with me about the activities and thinking. Here’s the introductory experience and here’s the performance task.

I’d love to hear any thoughts folks have on the idea, but am particularly interested in thinking about...

- What are some moves that I should be making in the facilitation of this learning that will make the experience more meaningful or promote deeper understanding of mathematics?

- What are some moves or follow up experiences that can complicate the simplicity of the “be grateful for what you have” idea? In a world with massive and growing inequality, it seems like the discussion is incomplete without also thinking about why some people have some much and others so little in the way of material things.

I realize this is being posted too late for folks to use in conjunction with their Thanksgiving celebrations, but if you have a chance to do this or some other lesson series that promotes quantitative reasoning and a practice of gratitude I’d love for you to join the discussion via the comments section or Twitter.



Photo 1: “GuadalupeNOLA15Oct07Thanks” by Infrogmation of New Orleans - Photo by Infrogmation. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GuadalupeNOLA15Oct07Thanks.jpg#/media/File:GuadalupeNOLA15Oct07Thanks.jpg

Photo 2: Students working on introductory activity in class. Photo by John McCrann

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