Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who Teaches The Teachers

Here's the best, most likely explanation I've yet heard for why so many teachers across the country continue to support fuzzy math:

There's a dirty little secret behind fuzzy math. The technique didn't become popular just because it supposedly made math easier to learn. It became popular because it made math easier to teach.

What a disgrace. Anyway, there's much more than that nugget in the linked column.


allen said...

It became popular because it made math easier to teach.

Ummm, not quite. The popularity of fuzzy math, indeed all edu-fads, lies in their inherent difficulty of measurement.

If you can't measure the amount of learning going on you can't measure the amount of teaching going on. You can't measure the effectiveness of the organization at the level of the individual teacher, the school or the entire district. Since public education funding is not dependent on performance there's no value to the organization in measuring effectiveness. If there's no value then the more difficult it is to objectively measure performance the better. After all, there's no reward for superior performance.

It doesn't hurt that edu-fads also feed the sorts of conceits to which a teacher is heir, i.e. not just teaching reading but helping to establish a just, equitable society, not teaching mere facts but inspiring tomorrow's leaders to preserve the environment, etc.

The ed schools are rewarded for taking part in this scheme by the publicity and income that attend the introduction of a new edu-fad although I don't believe the term "edu-fad" captures the essence of this economy. I'm tending toward the term "edu-crap". The word "fad" is too frivolous and not nearly an ugly enough term to describe the outcome of the use of these education methods. "Edu-crap" is a more descriptive term.

The public education system is a natural customer for edu-crap and where there's a buyer, sooner or later a seller shows up. In this case the ed schools are the suppliers of edu-crap which completes the requirements for a free market which is what it is. An edu-crap economy.

Anonymous said...

I think that too many decisions about math ed are being made by people who are math-phobic. They think somehow if math were made more *fun* or *relevant* it would be easier to learn. Rubbish.

What makes math fun is gaining a sense of mastery. Period.

Darren said...

While I agree with both previous comments, I have this to say to anonymous' final statement:

Hear hear!