I have a new teaching motto for my students (or maybe it’s a learning motto):

Don’t look for answers, look for questions!

I read New Scientist regularly, and usually solve the Enigma puzzle they have every issue. What I realized today was that quite often (especially with the geometric puzzles) the solution suggests some deeper ideas, and then I have a tendency to explore those ideas and see if they are true, and find their limitations. I’ll usually play around with some ideas first in Geogebra to see if there is a real indication of a more general principle and then try and prove it.

I think it is this kind of curiosity that has always made me like math and science so much. And I realized that what it comes down to is that I am not content with answers, but I want to know what the next question is. I’m curios and want to understand.

One thing that continually surprises me is how many students I see that don’t seem to have any innate curiosity about anything. I wonder if this has always been true, or if there is actually some change in more recent generations because of some change in modern society. Growing up you always hear about the insatiable curiosity of five-year-olds and their standard question of “Why is the sky blue?

It seems like a vast majority of kids I run into don’t care at all why the sky is blue, and it would never occur to them to ask. To be honest, I have a hard time relating to this lack of curiosity of the world we live in. I have always been curious, and so have my friends – but maybe it was more a case of who my friends were growing up rather than something with a change in society (i.e., I may have a biased sample space). I think it would make an interesting psychology study – and it should include changes in curiosity with age. Are people more or less curious in general during certain phases in their lives? Is there a demographic pattern? Is there a connection between natural curiosity and success in school?

All questions I’d be curious to know the answer to.