Forsaken is Better

Into week out and nastiness of the weather (climate?) has been visited upon us. All sorts of fallings and blowings last night into this morning. My constitutional was decidedly unpleasant due to the wind’s speed and its less than enjoyable cooling. Coupled with a less than effectively distracting podcast episode and my mind had occasion to wander back to a couple of articles.

First. a bit [Link] from the New Yawk Times entitled “The Problem With Math Problems: We’re Solving Them Wrong”. I have to admit to being a bit put off by the title. I learned a long time ago that when solution is a necessity however you solve the problem is acceptable. But since I have had to relearn some things on stochastic differential equations this week to review a manuscript, I have to admit that thoughts – and mode of thinking – can be rather critical in maths. 

That’s the thesis of the article in a nutshell, that the schule systems are failing to teach the students how to think. In particular, for this article, about and of and in maths, but my observation is more general. The schules are failing to teach the students to think. 

Part of this can be blamed on the “teachers” but that blame would not be new. I am not at all sure that thinking was encouraged when I attended public schule. Definitely not prior to high schule and I often doubt there as well. So such absence is not a new thing, just a thing that is beyond the reach of the system. Whether that is due to an inability of the system to do so curricularly or because teachers have no idea how to teach thinking is unclear but my personal hypothesis is both. If you go back and read Clausewitz’s writings on education from the eighteenth century the same absence was gaping. We may even postulate that the schule system is incapable of teaching thinking and the students are on their own. In which case Tyson’s tweet is profoundly relevant. Only the students who can transcend this will learn to think and we had better get used to the idea of a thinking elite.

This is supported by another article [Link] entitled “How much math, science homework is too much?” The answer is about an hour;s worth, which is an answer that strikes me as nonsensical absent context – which is absent. How long it takes to do an assignment varies from student to student depending on several factors. So is this a mean or mode, a statistical quantity, or does it mean the student is to work and hour and cease? Neither makes an enormous amount of sense although the former more than the latter.

What is useful ism again unsupported, assertion that too much is bad. This is good sense and smacks of academic officialness. You don’t learn nor want to learn when the work is tiring and drudgery. But what is telling is that the study repeated that learning alone is more effective than in a group. So, abandon study groups as parasite pools. If you want to do well, you gotta do it on your own.

Thank you Neil DeGrasse Tyson for pronouncing the obvious. That’s what science is about, after all.