kev
climber
A pile of dirt.


Jul 24, 2014  11:36am PT

So I studied mathematics in graduate school, taught while a graduate student (taught my own classes NOT a TA), briefly ran a small tutoring franchise, and even had a summer gig one year teaching "gifted and telented" 6th graders. From all this experience I've concluded that the problem lies with all the B.S math ed reform and all the culturial crap.
1 + 1 = 2 (base 10) no matter what color, creed, religion, etc you are.
No litte Johney shouldn't get partial credit if his attempts at a solution were not headied in a direction that would solve the problem.
I routinely had freshman algebra students that could not ad 1/2 + 1/4 without a calculator. The education system failed them. How did they graduate High School??? Never mind 1 2 = ? or what is 1/0 =. The k12 system fails....
On a more comical note, at a good second tier university with a respected mathematics dept. the mathematicians strongly disliked the math ed peeps. Infact the topologists would routingly vote for the weakest new prof hires when they were math ed types because they (and the rest of us) wanted the math ed dept to wither (remember they think that little johney should get credit and that religion and culture matter wrt (with respect to) 1 + 1 = 2).


Toker Villain
Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah


Jul 24, 2014  11:42am PT

I aced math. It is just the language of quantity.
I enjoy going to the deli counter at supermarkets and asking for 5 ounces of something only to see the employee's brain vapor lock as he (she) looks at the digital scale.
I tell them, "Remember back in the fifth grade when they said that you are going to need this stuff in real life? Well guess what? They were right."


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  11:43am PT

It's interesting that such a complex question: how to effectively teach mathematics, devolves so quickly to overly simplistic explanations.
First, there is no agreement as to what the math curriculum should be. Let's take a radical stance, that we require children to be educated because our democracy requires "an informed public." While understanding Andrew Wiles proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, would be a marvelous cultural objective, it isn't directly applicable to those issues on which the public votes.
Yet just being able to do various arithmetic calculations is not sufficient, either. Yet even this is a challenge for some students.
More and more, the public has been involved in trying to understand the nature of quantitative information based on statistical arguments. People playing the state sponsored lottery might want to better understand the odds of winning, vs. using those dollars for some other investment. The efficacy of medical procedures, or cures, or alternative medicines. The likelihood of floods, or other weather events, and on and on...
While many mathematicians might argue whether or not statistics should be included in mathematics, few people would see statistics as anything other than mathematics. So having an educated voting public capable of actually understanding statistical arguments might be a worthy goal of public education.
Yet that would be a daunting task, some would say "impossible." And in the current political climate it would be impossible, however worthy. To accomplish it would require a huge investment in remaking the mathematics curriculum, way beyond what most of the public believe would be necessary.
As wbw also observes, ideally it would require teachers who thoroughly understand the math in order to be successful teachers. It is a generally held belief that anyone who possess such skills would do better, financially, doing something other than teaching.
Teachers as a class have always been disparaged in American society, "those who can't, teach." They are a very low paid profession, and the best teachers often find work elsewhere. For a long time teaching was a profession relegated to women, whose effort was greatly undervalued. Often we hear the statement that teaching is "a calling" to justify the low compensation, yet as a society we have not made a commitment to those taking the calling. Tenure provided job security to those who "answered the call" yet that system is now seen as a root cause for poor teachers.
Obviously, if we valued teachers we'd put our money where our collective mouths are and pay them a competitive wage, yet there are all sorts of forces aligned against letting "the market" set teacher compensation. This is most obvious in the pseudooutrage over increasing college and university costs, and the increases in faculty salaries, which are market driven. Why not let it happen? Somehow collective activity is "evil" but limiting the compensation is ok (but we would never do that for corporate CEO's).
If you want the best to be teachers, you're going to have to compete with the private sector to attract those people. If you think giving education to the private sector will improve things without seeing increased costs, and probably unsatisfactory outcomes, you're delusional.
Americans are historically "practical" people, where practical has to do with commercial success. Education doesn't mean much to Americans as a whole except when education makes the students more successful, commercially. This is driving the American curriculum to be more a certification process for the private sector than what we'd traditionally refer to as a liberal education: "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement ... characterised by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study"
This definition would be anathema in the current political setting.
What the current argument revolves around is just what are the "specific course or field of study" that is required to provide the best advantage to a student's economic prospects.
Why Americans stink at math is because they don't see how math helps those personal economic prospects.
When the second order Taylor series expansion of the coupled time dependent return on investment is viewed as such a complicated and obscure bit of knowledge that it can be used in defense of the financial professions being "duped" by a bunch of physicists and cause international economic calamity, one can only sigh in disbelief of the denial of the importance to understand mathematics, even if it doesn't effect you bottom line directly.


Charlie D.
Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra


Jul 24, 2014  11:50am PT

I sucked at math K thru 12. I was lazy and some how thought the math would come to me just by looking at the book. It wasn't until I started working the problems over and over that I began to do well with it in college. I think it had in my case far more to do with a work ethic than teachers not doing their job. I was lazy and would rather goof off and be an idiot than sitting down and working math problems.


Eric Beck
Sport climber
Bishop, California


Jul 24, 2014  11:55am PT

As a math student, I found that the most important part of studying was just doing the problem sets.
A thought I have had that would increase the appeal of math is to show how powerful it is in solving conceptually difficult problems. I remember when I was first introduced to algebra and the idea of operating on an unknown value through the use of equations. This seemed extremely cool.


kev
climber
A pile of dirt.


Jul 24, 2014  11:55am PT

Obviously, if we valued teachers we'd put our money where our collective mouths are and pay them a competitive wage, yet there are all sorts of forces aligned against letting "the market" set teacher compensation. This is most obvious in the pseudooutrage over increasing college and university costs, and the increases in faculty salaries, which are market driven. Why not let it happen? Somehow collective activity is "evil" but limiting the compensation is ok (but we would never do that for corporate CEO's).
If you want the best to be teachers, you're going to have to compete with the private sector to attract those people. If you think giving education to the private sector will improve things without seeing increased costs, and probably unsatisfactory outcomes, you're delusional.
Hard to disagree with this. I'd much rather have someone with an MS or a PhD in a science who's education was focused on the science as a teacher but it doesn't pay! Then (in California) there's the CA single subject credential requirment for teaching HS mathematics hoop (replace "mathematics" with science of your choice).
If teaching actually paid well and there weren't the hoops I probably would have followed that path post grad school.


drunkenmaster
Social climber
santa rosa


Jul 24, 2014  12:02pm PT

i agree pay the teachers more. but no, its ceo's and some lawyers, doctors, realtors and politicians that make the fortunes.
i just read that american fast food eaters (already says something there) chose a 1/4 pound burger over a 1/3 pound burger at the same price because they thought 4 was bigger than 3 :/ seriously.


T Hocking
Trad climber
Redding, Ca


Jul 24, 2014  12:07pm PT

If you have a child struggling with math, please view the Kahn Academy videos....
Word! Thanks Nita.
Some of us recommended this for Whitemeat a few months back when he was struggling in math. He reported back that it helped him understand the concepts he was struggling with.
Off to the dentist for me,
Tad


JonA
Trad climber
Flagstaff, AZ


Jul 24, 2014  12:09pm PT

There are 3 types of people in this world. Those who are good at math and those who aren't.


Seamstress
Trad climber
Yacolt, WA


Jul 24, 2014  01:08pm PT

The key to any learning is desire. How do you make it real and how do you make it possible?
Teachers who really understand the subject and really understand their students learning and social skills can readily prepare the vast majority of kids tfor real life math applications. Two trains travleing towards each other  no one cares. However, a real life lesson like here are your credit balances, interest rates, and minimum amount due, how should you prioritize your payments and how long will it take to be out of debt  those are far more real life problems that kids need to solve. My former A student in Math needed Mom to show her that she could dig out of debt with a better prioritization, and bankruptcy was not necessary.
I would not be a fan of the group grope for understanding. I was a shy and awkward kid who would have HATED math if it was a group guided discovery. I was also not a fan of memorization, though I will admit that it was terribly efficient not to be actively computing 12x12 every time.. In my mind, nothing replaces true understanding. That needs to start with the teacher.
Always hated the gross generalizations  Why Americans stink at math......I am American, and I am great at math. That is inaccurate characterization of an array. Much better stated as "Why many Anericans stink at math", "Why the mean mathemeatical literacy of Americans is lower than other countries".......


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  01:39pm PT

...can readily prepare the vast majority of kids tfor real life math applications.
what is "real life math applications"? those examples you provided are interesting, but not the end of "real life" applications. In fact, "application" is a very interesting word, it implies that something is being applied, in this case, mathematics, which by the same implication is not "applied" but "pure."
So without learning mathematics, you don't have anything to apply.
You could just teach those specific lessons, and have the students use those lessons by rote, to the specific "real life applications" but you can't anticipate all the different application.
However, teaching students how to apply the same mathematics to different applications would seem to be a goal. If you can't see debt rates and trains as applications of constant rate coupled equations to be solved algebraically, then you've missed the point.
It is easy to disparage word problems, but the idea of the word problem is to learn how to analyze the problem and set it up to be solved. Once you learn how to do that, you can apply it to trains, and to debt, or any other such problem, or the issues related to the national budget and the assumptions going into the arguments over default...


kev
climber
A pile of dirt.


Jul 24, 2014  01:48pm PT

Teachers who really understand the subject and really understand their students learning and social skills can readily prepare the vast majority of kids tfor real life math applications. Two trains travleing towards each other  no one cares.
College freshman relate much better to a (albiet fictitious) drinking/exponential decay/DUI word problem than the traditional half life problem.


T Hocking
Trad climber
Redding, Ca


Jul 24, 2014  01:57pm PT

I think it had in my case far more to do with a work ethic than teachers not doing their job. I was lazy and would rather goof off and be an idiot than sitting down and working math problems.
Thanks for the honesty Charlie D.!


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  02:01pm PT

another problem: we generalize our own education.
Why is this a problem? because we don't actually understand how we were educated. Somehow, everyone thinks their an expert, and that their own experience is some self evident truth. Following this logic, it is not too difficult to see why teachers aren't respected and that learning about education is considered a waste of time.
If everyone is an expert, it should be no problem to teach our children. It is even easier to do that by telling the children that the teacher doesn't know how to teach and that the particular assignment is stupid and irrelevant and that the parent can testify that surviving in the "real world" doesn't require mastery of the subject.


TGT
Social climber
So Cal


Jul 24, 2014  02:06pm PT

It's not just math it's the entire teaching paradigm that needs to change.
The greatest impediment are the university education departments.
There's a national database with about every Masters and PHD thesis on education collected in it for the last 20 years or so called ERIC.
The standards on what gets accepted and published would get you laughed out of any other department including the soft ones if submitted.


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  02:06pm PT

is it a grammar mistake or a typo?
you're saying I don't understand the difference between: there, their and they're? or that I typed it incorrectly...


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  02:11pm PT

The standards on what gets accepted and published would get you laughed out of any other department including the soft ones if submitted.
interesting assertion, perhaps you can actually support it with some real cases, or are you just passing on what you heard somewhere else?
Not that that sort of logic would get you laughed out of the STForum, since that sort of logic is pervasive.
And then to generalize it to state that College/University Education Departments are the root cause of bad teaching, well, you might want to shore up that conclusion a bit too.


Ed Hartouni
Trad climber
Livermore, CA


Jul 24, 2014  02:12pm PT

yes, good catch of a mistake in an ironic setting...


locker
climber
STFU n00b!!!


Jul 24, 2014  02:14pm PT

Get rid of Tenure (12th grade and below)...
Raise the pay rate for High School and below Teachers...(Considerably higher, Public system)...


klk
Trad climber
cali


Jul 24, 2014  02:23pm PT

It's not just math it's the entire teaching paradigm that needs to change. The greatest impediment are the university education departments. There's a national database with about every Masters and PHD thesis on education collected in it for the last 20 years or so called ERIC. The standards on what gets accepted and published would get you laughed out of any other department including the soft ones if submitted.
that's a bit colorful, but yes, the general rule is that professional schools generallyed, med, law, and businessproduce scholarship that on average is less rigorous than that in many of the disciplines. there are stacks of exceptions, obviously, but yes, that is the consensus.
until very recently, much research on education in k12 was driven by a desire to produce quantifiable measurements of outcomes and efficiency. that came partly from dynamics internal to education (quantitative research looks more rigorous) but also in response to policy demands for cheaper public ed that could be measured in metrics so simple than even an average st poster could understand them.
one of the ironies of the standardized tests, is that in undergraduate education, education majors consistently rank in the lowest percentile of students by major. another irony is that business consitently ranks as another of the lowest performers.
put "business" and "education" together and you get NCLB and other horror shows.



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