Friday, June 10, 2011

I Don't Agree With This Guy

His talk sounds intellectual, but he's way off base. Language is what separates humans from the other animals!

He presents a couple of examples and pretends that its scalable. It's not. And I find his examples to be more confusing than illucidating; in fact, much like manipulatives, I question whether his "interactive software" learning translates to actual math learning.

I'd be interested to see how these studies he mentions were set up and evaluated.

The biggest problem, though, is this: why do we teach math in the first place? I assert it's so we have tools with which to solve real world problems. And real world problems are usually presented in words! In my thirty-sixteen years of life I've never had to use pictures to help a penguin get across a computer screen (watch the video above!), but I've had plenty of issues arise wherein I needed to use my math abilities. The point of math instruction isn't to solve a math problem, it's to solve a real problem! Math is just the tool, the language, we use to solve the real problem.


Curmudgeon said...

He kept saying "remove the language barrier" and I kept hearing "replace the teacher with a computer and everything will be hunky-dory".

His statistics seemed to be based on taking the absolute worst, those who are years behind, and bringing them near to an appropriate level. I wonder if this could be
A) replicated.
B) be anything but remedial.

I also wonder if the tools work because a teacher is explaining them afterwards -- the lessons shown don't seem all that mathematical. If this dreck is the goal, maybe this is why I have such trouble with all of the woo-woo in elementary grades and why the high school students seem so woefully unprepared all the time. I'm reminded of the South Park episode in which the boys are taught math by the illegal immigrants - because the illegals had a traditional education with memorizing and drill, they were able to use math much more easily and could teach it better, too.

Further, you don't succeed with ELL students by eliminating words. You succeed by teaching them new ones - the language of math. They want to learn English, too, and the math class is a good place for it.

Erin K. said...

Manipulatives seem to work great for small kids, but they're usually either pre-reading or in the middle of learning of to read at those stages. But once the kids know how to read, if manipulatives are used, they're not used exclusive of language.

I find it interesting that his interactive software still uses numbers. Orthography is orthography whether it's letters or numbers.

I think the point of his that I object to most is that we should treat all language differences the same way when teaching math, which is to just remove the language from it. Doing this may be a temporary stop-gap to make sure an EL or LD student doesn't get behind in math while finding a way to catch them up with English, but it shouldn't be the cornerstone method of math instruction. Most of us are not Einsteins, and most of us need language to learn, or need to learn language to manage in the real world. That shouldn't be limited to the English classroom.

Mrs. Widget said...

One thing I noticed in in pie graph is "additional". There's no overlap. A person could be low english and dyslexic. Nor does it say where the data comes from.

Darren said...

Also, I *loved* the "visual learner" thing. I'd love to take one of those kids--let's pick one who's good at math, even--and let's teach him/her trigonometry visually the way this guy suggests. I'd bet a month's pay that the kid won't spout that "visual learner" crap for very much longer.

Anonymous said...

It seems like his ideas work on the elementary level, but no way would they work on a larger scale. Language is everything. We see pictures and think in a language. We describe things with language. It makes no sense to try to teach without language. If that many are struggling now then we shouldn't scrap it, but do just the opposite; we should emphasize the importance more and attempt to help those struggling.

Nigel said...

Well, here's what some of the teachers, administrators, and 300,000+ students who use the program have to say:

Doesn't seem to be replacing teachers, just helping.

You might find this interesting too:

This program is actually making a serious difference for hundreds of thousands of students, in conjunction with the dedication of hard working teachers and other education professionals in parts of the country where little else has traditionally succeeded.