Here’s an interesting blog post on math education I thought you might be interested in:
That was interesting and challenging, and a reminder of how far I’ve drifted from mainstream educational philosophy. Thanks for sharing it.
Math education is hard, because only some kids are interested in what’s being presented when it’s being presented. I remember just plowing through my Algebra textbook (before going to public high school). I was interested and ready and it was fun (even though I didn’t really connect it to anything useful other than doing math assignments). But when it’s a required thing, and the student isn’t interested, it’s a major uphill battle. Extend it for 12 years and it only gets worse. Regardless of what textbook is used, forced education is a messy, brute-force approach. I think it does more harm than good, totally killing whatever interest such people might otherwise have developed when they were ready.
I also think that the doomsday tone around poor math skills is blown way out of proportion. Dichotomies involving burger-flipping are ridiculous. Perhaps as a society we need to start releasing our death grip on the failing enterprise that is standardized education, and a let a rebirth happen. We should stop assuming we know everything future generations will need to know. Also, average math skills as determined by standardized tests are a poor indicator of our country’s capacity for innovation in science and other areas of inquiry. Great minds produce innovation and discovery, and they hardly depend on having learned the same thing as everyone else. Yet that’s what our education system is about—trying to ensure that everyone learns the same things at the same time. That’s a good recipe for killing innovation: mass homogenization.
Have you ever read “A Mathematician’s Lament”? I re-read it just now. It’s really eye-opening, a delight to read, and makes me want to do real math.
A Mathematician’s Lament (PDF)
You should read the whole thing when you get a chance, but this much shorter article has some highlights:
Thanks again for the link,
P.S. I recently realized that school (including my algebra course) trained me to hate puzzles (not the jigsaw kind). I have a strong aversion to them if there’s not a right answer or if the procedure for getting to it isn’t right in front of me. Only recently have I allowed myself to develop some comfort around conundrums. Enjoyment comes next…
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