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Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then

We were in a "saloon" restaurant in Grand Marais MI USA recently when the juke box started to play a song whose refrain and title were "Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then." It was sung by the country western singer-songwriter Toby Keith.

The song refers to the singer's finally learning about his cheating girlfriend and how he laments knowing now what he did not know all along (but, no doubt suspected) - her unfaithfulness.

Somehow when we listen to country and western songs they always have a story line, often from similar themes - love (unrequited and fulfilled), travel, friends, trains, prison, guilt, longing, etc.  These messages can touch us if we get beyond the interesting musicality (strong bass line, guitar picking, tapping feet, yodeling voice, beautiful harmonies, and obvious twanging in the voice).

We can see traveling musicians alone in a motel room, picking away in hopes of a tune emerging and then the riff of chords coupled with that just right click feeling of the lyric comes and they think, "I have a hit on my hands!" Well, maybe not a hit, but a catchy theme and lyric, a dance like nature, or a mellow reflective piece we can all listen to, be it at home, out dining, at a bar stool, or in an elevator!

So two thoughts came to mind, the first is the uber thought, namely that of the musician, much like the mathematics educator, knowing when they are on to something; that they have created an approach, a lesson, an activity, a theorem, that clicks just right and when they share it with others the feedback is more than positive, it is something like, "Yeah, you've got it! That is really nice, I mean really nice!"

The second thought, was my first reaction to the way of saying something,  "Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then." This could have been a positive instead of two negatives, something like, "I am sorry to learn now," but that does not have the logical catch that the title really offers.

Throughout the song one keeps thinking what the title/refrain means, while the story line confirms its meaning that the singer has learned some things now that he did not know then and they are breaking his heart. So he laments that he wishes he didn't know now what he didn't know then. He does not make it clear that he is happy about learning the news, nor that he is set to be free of her, but he is just making a wish that he didn't know now what he didn't know then, namely that he could have been happy in ignorance of the new news.

I think most of us would rather know then what we just learned now, especially when it is bad news, perhaps even more so when it is good news.

In our case, at SIMIODE, it is knowing now the joy of seeing students enthusiastic about learning differential equations and knowing now how we can create an environment for learning in context and not regret that we did not do this earlier when we were exposed to the approach. We put issues in the way, issues like "How am I going to fit all these methods or solution in and do modeling? Or, "How can I cover all these topics and do modeling?" We just should have jumped in - the water is fine!

We have found that when faculty jump in (well, at least get their feet wet!) and try teaching in a modeling first approach they are happy for doing now what they could have put off until later or not at all back then. Immersion and knowing are better than "business as usual" and being limited by methods and solution driven texts.

So it was for us that when we hear the lyric,  Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then, we can say we are sharing NOW news of joy in using modeling to motivate teaching and learning differential equations and we are finding listeners who will not have to say later, perhaps much later, Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then. May it be so with you and we are happy you are joining our merry band at SIMIODE. Sing out, sing clear, and sing joyfully, NOW! 

PS We are still trying to work "Differential equations" into a country and western song lyric, but  it just ain't happenin'. 

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