Sunday, August 07, 2016

US Traditional vs Integrated Math

The author of this piece didn't use those two terms when describing secondary school US and British math(s) sequences, but they're accurate enough to get you to read the "comic".  The fence-sitting thesis, though, is compelling:
For the most part, neither country’s students are achieving a crisp and unified vision of the subject. We’re comparing our own country’s lofty ideals to the other’s disappointing realities—not exactly a fair fight.

If you’ve guessed that I’m building towards a wishy-washy “They’re both equally good!” conclusion, then you’re almost right. I genuinely prefer the American way, but I suspect that a twin version of me raised in Liverpool would disagree. Even so, I know we’d agree on this:

The problems intrinsic to each system are utterly dwarfed by the problems in their execution.

After bickering with my colleagues about these issues (which I do from time to time), I realize how silly it is. It’s like we’re tasting two burnt cakes and arguing which one has the better recipe.

Who cares? How would we even tell which plan is better, when all we’ve got are these monstrous piles of char?


Steve USMA '85 said...

Interesting comparison. I know as an applied math major at our mutual Alma Mater, it wasn't until I hit my higher level courses that I realized that all the "Maths" fit together. For instance, geometry was not a stand-alone but worked with everything else to enable full use of higher level mathematical concepts. It was a bit of a light bulb going off for me at the time. I now wonder if I would have done better in a British-type system.

PeggyU said...

Steve - That is interesting since I have always felt as though the subjects can't help but be integrated to some degree. I thought analytic geometry, for example, was a nice balance of algebra and geometry. In my experience with "integrated" math, the way I've seen it presented, it feels very unfocused and superficial. Not really a fan of the CPM texts which seem to randomly throw together topics.