Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Hint of Sensible Education Reform

But just a hint, to leave you with the impression that the government warehouses for your young might consider teaching something.

Let’s teach Math! Like any sensible idea, this isn’t likely to go anywhere in the government school system. The teacher’s colleges will fight to the death against ideas like this – it’s not new or countercultural. Further, the hidden assumption is that a math teacher would have to spend time learning math rather than how to teach math.

There are actually some good points here – that the run up to Algebra, and Algebra itself, are critical success factors.

Where this is likely to fall down is the continued use of the ‘discovery’ method. Socrates made this work, but most teachers are not Socrates, and most of their students don’t turn out to be Plato.

A big improvement would be to scrap the cartoons, and go back to old fashioned multiplication tables and lots of memorization work. For younger kids, there’s a place for manipulatives, but the focus needs to be on mastering computational basics.

Understanding the concepts and more advanced mathematical reasoning comes later – once the student as a grasp of the fundamental facts and operations needed. I suspect that a certain amount of cranial raw material is needed for the student to really understand more advanced applications.

It’s also time to toss aside computers and calculators for many math classes, and leave those to more applied math areas in the sciences.

Most people don’t need to remember the name commutative property of addition or multiplication; they only need to remember how it works. Why it works is of less significance.