April 24, 2010 AT 7:38 am

Fixing math

Dan Meyer on fixing math education…

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  1. I saw this awhile back, and he definitely has some good points, but I couldn’t agree entirely with his approach. While math should certainly not be reduced to plug-n-chug and things of that sort, a vital part of learning math is adopting quantitative and formulaic approaches. If you remove all of the numbers and ask an open-ended question, you remove much of what is most valuable to the mathematical process in my opinion. An alternative approach that might be good is to incorporate some curriculum from Analysis, which explains WHY math formulas and theorems work the way they do, and could interest students who don’t really understand math at a fundamental level. That’s just my thought on the matter, however.

  2. A brilliant talk and a brilliant approach. To address the first commentor — I don’t think he’s advocating *only* this method. At some point you have to do the brute memorization (or brute learning of factoring a quadratic). For example you can’t have a conversation about multiples of something until you know your basic times tables…

    That being said, the biggest complaint in math classes is that people don’t see the point of it. This method addresses that complaint head-on, and I think it’s a great way to teach.

  3. The first problem with math education is the system — teachers have to teach the curriculum, and frequently they are mandated to teach to the specific book chosen by the school board.

  4. Michael Taylor

    I think one needs to read Paul Lockhart’s essay A Mathematician’s Lament


    It expresses the opinions and thoughts of a PhD mathematician who teaching high school mathematics. Before the topic can be successfully discussed, you need to know what it is you wish to achieve, unfortunately the dire of mathematical understanding in public life is so severe, most people don’t understand what mathematics is.

    I’m not trying to be snobbish or elitist, but my mathematics education makes me painfully aware of the inequality of public awareness.

  5. @Craig – What Dan Meyer was describing here was how to take that mandated textbook and use it to teach math reasoning, by stripping out the hand-holding and formula-feeding.

    I thought it was great talk.

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