Math Lemmings

Liquid phase! I woke up this morning and for the first – FIRST! – time in TOO copulating long the air temperature was in the liquid phase of dihydrogen oxide range. Of course the weather beavers still blew this one. They proclaimed this region would be entered at 2200 yesterday and as of 2400 we were still outside. But I am still going to trust them about the next couple of days being fluid, mostly because FD SCP and I need the relief. 

Since we have this state, and the Arab Electron Uncooperative didn’t bollox the potential difference during this nastiness, I am going to shift gears a bit on blogging.

Last week seems to have been a week of nattering about what’s wrong with maths education (?) in the Yankee republic. First,[Link] an indictment by a “math professor” that

“We are pretty much the only country on the planet that teaches math this way, where students are forced to memorize formulas and procedures. And so kids miss the more organic experience of playing with mathematical puzzles, experimenting and searching for patterns, finding delight in their own discoveries. Most students learn to detest — or at best, endure — math, and this is why our students are falling behind their international peers.”

Sadly, it appears that maths professors cannot do analysis and write opinion articles at the same time. Despite the accolade,

“What I’ve found instead is that a student who has developed the ability to turn a real-world scenario into a mathematical problem, who is alert to false reasoning, and who can manipulate numbers and equations is likely far better prepared for college math than a student who has experienced a year of rote calculus.”

the author evidently didn’t (or couldn’t) come to the observation that (a) procedures and formulae can be tested in a multiple guess, standardized instrument but turning real-world situations into maths can’t, and education degree (certificate) holders with a maths proficiency (? – I hesitate to call it a ‘major’) can instruct procedures and formulae but not turning real-world situations into maths. So the problem at root is that the educationalist system can’t and won’t teach maths in any meaningful manner.

And it doesn’t help that the parents are maths blind as well.

This is not new. Yes, it may have been a bit better in my day, just because we didn’t have as many (!) standardized tests whose format is orthogonal to learning, but even then the kids who learned maths did so in spite of the teachers and the curriculum. And yes, I borrowed that from Neil DeGrasse Tyson but I’ve thought and said it (not as well) on my own. 

Second, [Link] is an article with a similar trajectory that says timed testing is crippling the ability of students to do maths. My immediate wonder is how is this different in college? When I was in college all – ALL – tests were timed, even the take home ones. Even research presentations and thesis defense is timed, if loosely. 

Not that I am unsympathetic. It usually takes me years to solve “real” problems, if ever. And much of what I did at work wasn’t solutions, just insights passed off as success. And why?, because those were timed too. 

But this is a timed world. More today than in my youth. Completion dates are entries in calendars – before they occur. Solutions are scheduled. Failure is persistent and prevarication is ubiquitous. But if we can find a way to fix this for maths we can fix it for everything. Except maybe bogs, since they are maths blind in the main.

And we can still blame this on the educationalists and their instrumentality because of the RIGID scheduling.

I still think we learn in spite of the teachers and the system. And maybe, just maybe, almost all teachers are BAD almost ALL of the time?