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Sam and the Hero’s Journey

Sam i el viatge de l'heroi

2. Do you know why the classics are classic? Italo Calvino said they are because, above all, they never stop saying what they need to say. The classics carry on talking many years after having been written because they keep finding ears that will listen. The classics question us, they still move us even five hundred years after their publication. The classics are classics because they directly appeal to the immortal part of human beings.


3. Do you know why so many teenagers use language in such a personal way? Because throughout their childhood they have constructed linguistic models and as they get older they enjoy breaking them. They invent neologisms, explore the limits of words, play with double meanings, with irony… they do what they need to do, tear down models and build their own. In math the same thing happens, if we have built up a solid discourse and the students have understood why 10 + 5 is 15, they would love to know why 10 + 5 couldn’t also be 3. Tearing down a model and building up a new one.


5. A movie starts and you hear an organ playing a melody in minor. In the first scene, a house in the middle of a clearing is seen, a Victorian house in the fog. It’s night. It is deadly silent, perhaps a wolf is howling in the distance. What are you thinking? You’re watching a horror movie. How have you figured it out? Because throughout your whole life you have been building up a model for horror movies and your brain has filled in the blanks. This is a classic too.


7. The students in the first years of middle school are a tough crowd. In some cases, they are looking to break down models or turn them on their heads, and other models are not yet solid enough to break. We have come across this with Sam’s Journey. The students know that it is a series or an adventure movie but they still don’t have the classic structure of a hero’s journey sufficiently consolidated and so, instead of breaking it, we have decided to help them build their model. Sam’s Journey follows the classic outline of a hero’s journey.


11. Additionally, the hero’s journey is the journey of many of our students in the math classroom. As the hero of an adventure story (Sam, in this case), our students feel a call to adventure (the call to math challenges), but initially, they dismiss it. They don’t feel able, they don’t feel ready. But if everything goes well, they will meet a mentor (the teacher?) and something will change. Heroes (the students) will accept the call and cross the threshold that takes them out of their comfort zone. And they will enter into the unknown and there they will find problems, challenges, enemies (which at times will be themselves) and maybe a final test they will have to overcome (boredom, laziness, or even the education system). And if they persevere, they will find their reward, the knowledge and processes upon which they base new questions. And so they will start on their journey back, happy having found the elixir, which in reality wasn’t anything other than curiosity and new questions to start all over again, another call to adventure, another mentor, another time leaving their comfort zone.

13. This article seems to be made up of unconnected parts but that’s not the case. Formally, for example, the paragraphs are numbered following the prime numbers. Why? To break down a model and build a new one. You may have realized with a silent, complicit nod. Or maybe not, and so seeing that we started with 2 and not with 1 made you slightly uncomfortable. If you were a child that doesn’t know how to count yet, who doesn’t know that before 2 comes 1, you wouldn’t have cared as there wouldn’t have been a model.

17. Here ends the article. If it is constructed well, you have found the elixir, curiosity and more questions. If you are teachers, hopefully you find a way to take this elixir to the classroom. If not, hopefully you’ll find a way to take it into your life. In any case, never let the scary monster (boredom, laziness, the education system) make you lose sight of your own hero’s path.

  • Verónica Sánchez

    Studied Humanities and Journalism in the Universidad Pompeu Fabra. She has given Literature classes in school in Barcelona and New York. Currently she combines teaching and curricular coordination in L’Horitzó (Barcelona) with scriptwriting for the series, Sam’s Journey, at Innovamat. In 2014 she won the Carlemany Prize with the young adult novel Coses que no podrem evitar (Columna)

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