Monday, November 16, 2009

Math Pedagogy

I found this article about the influence of progressive social goals in math curriculum fascinating. At some level though I think, or rather hope, that the influence of political and social goals on math curriculum is overstated. Isn't math pretty much math? Doesn't everybody pretty much learn adding fractions, multiplying polynomials, or taking a derivative by watching the teacher and then doing example after example until it's been drummed into their head? It's simply hard and often boring work. Even if there is some sort of gender or racial component, seems to me this would manifest as the student requiring more practice, but not some fundamentally different type of work.

I do have some issues with the piece. First, I'm tempted to read the sources to which the author refers because I just can't believe it's that bad. I have heard the argument that most people won't use algebra, so why make the poor kids go through the trouble of learning it and feeling stupid? I have little time for that argument because it's so patronizing, but I can't imagine entire curricula designed around a similar notion. Second, as you know, I hate it when the rationale for better education, particularly in science and math, is "to compete in a global economy." We need to offer our children rigorous science and math education because it's integral to proper education and instills many worthwhile traits.

1 comment:

Miss Self-Important said...

I had a little of the watered down math for social justice in high school algebra--it was basically word problems about political problems, like how many pounds of wheat would we need to deliver to whatever starving African nation to feed its people if men consume X amount and women Y amount, etc, etc.

 
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