SL2RL-Math247

16 March 2008

Vindicated – How sweet the taste of these grapes :)

Filed under: education,ICT,math — admin @ 3:53 am

In today’s New York Times – I saw a report: Report Urges Changes in Teaching Math

The report: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

And we had just finished our paper the day before that made so many of the same points (also has some concrete ideas for solutions): ICT in Math Education – Small Interactivities & Specific Goals

How sweet the taste – after so many sour grapes this month!

————

Someone asked me what I meant about lighting the fire and filling the bucket in mathematics education …

In the US, math education has swung completely towards a “lighting the fire mentality” . For example, one doesn’t need to know the multiplication tables by heart. (I really didn’t think anybody could believe this until – no kidding – a university professor of ICT actually said this outloud at a conference: “It is enough to know that 6×7 is somewhere between 30-something and …”. By this time I was laughing so hard I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence.)

On the other hand, here where I live in Europe, the emphasis is on “filling the bucket”. For example, a child must memorize a formula for the volume of a cut-off pyramid. That is, not just memorize the formula for the volume of a pyramid, but also a formula that (a) you will never, ever need and (b) makes our students dummies. Why? Because the top of a pyramid is just another pyramid. So just use the one formula twice and subtract. Let’s just say to these kids – “no thinking permitted”.

The result is the same – neither child can “make the coffee”, i.e. do math at any level of competence AND both hate math.

One interesting feature is - both schools reward lots of “partial credit” on tests. How many bosses do you know reward “partially done jobs”?

And – if you think this problem is only in math:

My child here in Europe – had to know that in the population census in our country in 1935 there were 532,381 people – that is, an exact number for a definitively inexact figure.

On the other hand, in my US education, I am still unsure of even the relative positions in time of Shakespeare, the protestant revolution, the renaissance, Napoleon, the middle ages, Columbus, Walt Whitman, the US Civil War, etc.

2 March 2008

It’s about making coffee – Light the fire & Fill the bucket

Filed under: education,ICT,math — admin @ 1:09 am

I was just looking at the byline on an email I received from a “Professor of Education”.

It said – It’s about lighting a fire, not filling a bucket.

No it’s not.

“It” isn’t about either of these things separately.

“It” is about being able to make the coffee.

2 January 2008

Facts+Skills+Thinking: Applets and the Vitruvian Learner

Filed under: applets,education,ICT,math — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 12:44 am

We want our learners to know facts, to have skills and to be able to think – a perfectly proportioned Vitruvian Learner.

I am preparing a new course on ICT* in Education. Most of the literature on this is depressing – no kidding. Everyone is still so enthusiastic about the future of ICT in education, but most admit that current ICT integration has brought no significant breakthroughs in student learning. ARGH!

At the same time, I was just designing a set of math applets** for measuring angles with a protractor (link). This turns out to be an exercise for which there are many, many, many such programs available. ARGH!

Of course, I think my applets are different – they will bring the breakthroughs. But why should they? For the moment, let’s assume that magically my applets are loved and are being used in every classroom in the land …

What about these applets might bring a breakthrough in student learning?

To be effective:

The applet must be a perfect proportion of facts, skills and logical thinking processes both required to use and acquired from use and

• this required perfect proportion must apply to a large number of learners.

• this acquired perfect proportion must apply to a large number of curriculum.

One easy conclusion – the smaller and more focused the application – the better chance it has of meeting these requirements. Hence, applets and not mega applications probably are more practical.

Even more essential is communication with teachers because a teacher will not use ICT unless it can be used within the curriculum, i.e. within the framework of “this is what we know so far and this is our goal in this lesson”.

So – just from the point of view of bringing a breakthrough in learning – and before designing an applet, we must ask.

• What are the facts one needs to know to use and what facts will be learned?

• What are the skills one needs to know to use and what skills will be learned?

• What types of logical thinking process are required? What thinking processes will be learned?

Then: Do these answers fit a broad spectrum of learners and curriculum?

Yes? On to the next checklist …


* ICT: Information and Communication Technology, sometimes just IT.

** applet: A little application frequently run from a browser window with limited features that requires limited memory resources.


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