If it doesn't turn you on, why would you focus on it? I just read The Book of Learning and Forgetting, by Frank Smith. He makes a sharp distinction between memorizing and learning. I think knowing those multiplication facts is vital to doing lots of interesting mathematical work, but students will only know them if they felt engaged by the ideas at some point.If it hadn't been written by SueVH, I'd have been tempted to toss it into the Idiot Pile and shrug my shoulders muttering "What the ... " under my breath. Sue's right, of course, but I shudder at what a parent or new teacher or student might take away from this.
Here's the problem. Statements like "If it doesn't turn you on, why would you focus on it?" and "students will only know them if they felt engaged by the ideas" can lead to a dangerous impasse in the classroom.
Students in elementary school, more than at any other level, are influenced by the attitudes of their teachers. They can be convinced or even be taught (or manipulated, or brainwashed, if you want to be cynical and stupid) that math is fun and easy. They can memorize so many things at this age - they're memorizing words, symbols, mores and morals, culture, ethics (to the point they can understand them) - they're a mental sponge. They will absorb everything just because someone said so.
If the teacher takes the approach that the students need to be engaged before they can learn math, then she has lost another generation because she doesn't get turned on my math, won't focus on it, and will teach the children that it's not for their pretty little selves. Her biases and fears and trials and troubles with math become their biases and fears and trial and troubles.
If we are constantly offering the excuse of "They're not engaged" as a reason to blame the teacher instead of the students, why should anyone wonder at the poor results we get?
Motivation is the responsibility of the student.