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!

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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.