"Why Americans Stink at Math" . . (way OT)

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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 pseudo-outrage 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...
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 generally--ed, med, law, and business--produce 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 k-12 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.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jul 24, 2014 - 02:24pm PT
Pedagogy is an entire field of study itself. In other words, there is nothing "easy" or straighforward about teaching. I've taught sciences and math (statistics/probability mostly) at the high school and college levels. There are many different learning styles, and accomodating all of those styles in a teaching lesson is a big challenge. Some kids are visual/spatial learners, some are verbal, some conceptual, others relative/analagous.

El Cap for the win. My daughter and son-in-law both teach math and statistics at the high school level, and both get consistently excellent reviews. Math was one of my undergraduate majors, and always came easily and intuitively to me, so I can't offer any personal stories about overcoming difficulty. I have, however, taught law and economics for over 25 years, and always got superior reviews from my students, despite having no formal training in education. Well, there is one exception. One Summer School economics class I taught at Fresno City College had a one-student review in Ratemyprofessors.com that gave me a "C," but that's an outlier. ;-)

Anyway, I think the idea that anyone who "knows how to teach" can teach anything simply does not fit my experience. I find no substitute for thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Unfortunately for teaching, math is one of the few undergraduate majors that offers a lucrative field with just a bachelor's degree, namely being an actuary. I calcualte that it costs my daughter and son-in-law a combined $150,000+/year to teach math, rather than to be employed as actuaries.

In California, however, the courts have ruled that it is illegal to base a teacher's pay on the subject matter taught, even though the opportunity cost differs radically for different subjects. My other daughter has an advanced degree in music composition, but her opportunity cost of teaching is zero. Why should she be paid more than my other daughter, who has only a bachelor's degree, but in a field with a very high opportunity cost?

I realize many people don't understand, appreciate, or even believe in opportunity costs, but they are, in fact, the only real costs in life. Consequently, a teacher with a master's degree in education and an undergraduate minor in mathematics is often paid more than one with a bachelor's degree in math but "only" an education credential. Our California teacher compensation system says, in effect, it's more important to know how to be an educator than it is to know your subject matter.

Be careful bashing Common Core, though. My favorite math prof at Berkeley, Hung-Tsi Wu, co-wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Wall Street Journal endorsing Common Core standards for math. Dr. Wu didn't exactly choose the most friendly forum, but his arguments had a great deal of force. While I have issues trying to teach "relevance," I realize that when I teach a class, I normally incorporate -- either as problems or examples -- so many of my "war stories" that I show and teach the relevance as a matter of course.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I think the article makes some good points, particularly in warning about relying on the "new, best, way to teach math" to the exclusion of every other option. Teaching remains an art, and art generally remains incompatible with "best practices."

John
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jul 24, 2014 - 02:26pm PT
Get rid of Tenure (12th grade and below)...

Raise the pay rate for High School and below Teachers...(Considerably higher, Public system)...



I'd trade the tenure for a raise in a heartbeat,
the unions can go too.

Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Jul 24, 2014 - 02:29pm PT
Okay, here is my math epiphany and rant:

All math was created by the human mind.
You have a human mind.
You are capable of creating all math.


If anyone has a problem with math you find them chanting this: "I'm bad at math." It's the biggest lie in the world.

Repeating a negative suggestion such as this over and over is a form of self-hypnosis and it will be true until you just get off it.

If you go back and revisit your education in math you will find you started to be bad at math at the point when the math teacher used a word you did not understand, like "arithmetic" or "algebra."

Math teachers fail because they fail to clearly define the terms of mathematics.

Also, there is is a fundamental missing from math instruction:

There is a form of math more fundamental than simple addition and subtraction. It is "counting."

The skill of counting goes back to the street markets of ancient Egypt or even counting the number of animals in heard or members of a tribe that need to be fed. Counting should be well drilled in young children and practiced regularly throughout education until a person can look at a pile of apples and in less than a second or two, state precisely how many apples are present.

Counting is done on Sesame Street and many kindergarten classes but is not emphasized enough. High standards need to be set and enforced.

Counting being done well, the rest of math, with terms understood, follows forward very quickly.


Our education system should be producing people who don't just know formulas, but are aware enough to invent formulas as needed to solve problems in life.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Jul 24, 2014 - 02:30pm PT
I went back to school late in life and got my BS in my 40's I needed lower division units and since I was working for a school district at the time could take the classes to clear a Voc Ed credential for next to nothing so both the wife and I took the classes.

One of the requirements was to use ERIC as a research tool.

I was frankly astounded at the lack of rigor generally accepted in Masters and PHD work in Education departments. If I'd turned in work like that in any of my undergraduate Business Administration classes, I'd have flunked.

klk

Trad climber
cali
Jul 24, 2014 - 02:32pm PT
one of the most ridiculous things about the constant chant that we need to teach kids only what they can use on the job, is that the people who say that have created a curriculum that is truly useless. look at what we have the kids actually do --

if an alien visited an american classroom to observe the results of that philosophy, he'd conclude that most americans get paid to fill in little circles with number 2 pencils all day long.
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