If I ask myself this question before bed, I don't sleep: "What if math were an elective?"It turns out I was unable to sleep as well. The question had my mind going in many directions. The first of which was how would this change the teaching of math? My first reaction is that there would be a lot fewer students taking math. Currently in Ontario students are required to take 3 math courses. Many of them don't like math and won't take a minute more than they need to. My thinking was that the teaching would need to change to engage more students. We would have to show them how useful and exciting math can be. Get them to crave more. How do we do this? By providing them with engaging problems that they can relate to, which is easier said than done. It's a lot of work but it's something to work towards.
The other questions I had were: how would this affect students? Would they have enough basic mathematical knowledge to get through life? What effect, if any, would it have on their problem solving skills? How would this affect society as a whole? How do I as a math teacher ensure that I'm making a difference?
Unfortunately, I have a lot of questions and very few answers. I'm not discouraged by this since it's questions like these that allow us to continually improve. Perhaps we should all teach our courses as though they were electives. My guess is that students would get more out of them. I think I've just set a new goal for myself: teach as though my classes are electives.
What questions do you have? Do you have any suggestions for making math more meaningful?