Sunday, October 09, 2005

Math *Content* vs Fluff

I have nothing to add to this article. Nothing, that is, except to exclaim "I CARE!"


Wulf said...

This is exactly the problem, though. How many times have you heard an adult say that they "can't do math"? That is socially acceptable, in a way that we would never find a respectable person saying they "can't read".

Kids can do math if they care about it, which is why they can calculate how much money you owe them, or what monster they must kill to reach the next level, or how many more skittles Josh got.

But when they see no reason to care about 314 x 12, or what time the sun rose, they won't get the right answer. If our society and parents do not instill a fundamental respect and awe of mathematics, or treat it as a skill as essential as reading, then math and science teachers will find ourselves jumping through hoops to get the right answer out of them.

What can you do?

Darren said...

And this ridiculous belief that any word problem has to be *directly related to the real world* is nonsense. Train A and Train B problems exist to provide a structure by which the students learn to extract necessary information from a paragraph and use that information to solve a problem. I think it gets insulting when every problem has to do with how many cd's or shirts kids buy, just because they have "experience" with those activities.

Save Ferris.

echotig said...

Wouldn't it be killing two birds with one stone if the questions were stated in a way to encourage the student to use his/her imagination?

Darren said...

Sometimes, echotig. But in the beginning (think Algebra I), imagination is the worst thing possible. Teach the kids what to look for, how to find the information--*then* give them more creative problems to encourage a little imagination.

Let's not put the cart before the horse. You learn Chopsticks before Bach's concertos, you learn to walk before you run.

echotig said...

Darren, did you read the article? We are talking about 4th graders here.

How do you do algebra without imagination? How can you think about variables without imagination? How can you tell, without imagination, that Y gets smaller when X gets bigger?

Just how many figures of speech do you need to use in a comment? I get it, but you're wrong.

Darren said...

4th graders in other countries, still Algebra I in ours.

And don't think for a moment that those students weren't taught an explicit way of solving those problems. Only in America do we encourage students to ignore a couple of thousand years of math development and figure it all out on their own.

Anonymous said...

As a first step ... destroy all calculators in first grade - 12th.

I work in engineering for a large computer manufacturer and even I don't see the need for computer literacy in lower grades. I can teach a 12th grader everything he needs to know about a computer in the last 30 minutes of his last day in high school.

But, alas ... even in private schools they let them use programming calcs even on tests. ACT and SAT ... gotta have 'em.

I engaged in a fight with my daughter's pre-Calc (11th grade) teacher recently. She REQUIRED a TI89 for the class. In total rebellion I bought an HP49g+, the most powerful programmable on the market today, fully capable of crunching problems far past my college calculus.

Not good enough. Since all they teach is the buttons to push (literally, and that is NO JOKE), my daughter was even worse off than having to borrow a TI from a friend.

I am sickened by it, Darren. And you've pressed a flaming topic for me. The answer is so obvious I don't know why we can't resolve the problem. Besides getting rid of calculators, the next step is that we absolutely have to have math homework every night of the week. None of this nonsense I hear from my kids about "I did it when she gave us the last half of the class today" either.

I gotta get off of your comment site before I fill it up. I care too but I'm also a parent that's pretty close to giving up.

Darren said...

Don't give up, Bob. It's parents like you that give a fighting chance to us teachers who fight the good fight.

Incidentally, if you're in California, it's *illegal* for a teacher to require your child to bring a calculator to class. Email me at and I'll direct you to the appropriate sections of ed code. Additionally, I've confirmed this with the state Dept of Ed legal department. I'm preparing a post on the topic.

Wulf said...

Those stupid graphing calculators... my students don't know what the trig functions do, they only know to use the buttons. There is a definite lack of knowledge for some of them.

I give them printed trig tables and a four function calculator for our physics quizzes, but for the test I think it's cruel because it takes them so long... I let them use the TIs that they are required to buy for math classes. (We're not in California, but I am looking forward to seeing Darren's post on this.)

Wulf said...

Oh, and the "save Ferris" is cracking me up. You have caught me off guard twice with it.