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The real reason why the US is falling behind in math


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rainymike

This is a refreshing point of view from a mathematician who thinks the US has it wrong with regards to teaching math. I halfway agree. But it does point out creative ways of dealing with schools bogged down with a lot of rote memorization (like in the Phils as well).

 

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/02/12/why-falling-behind-math/WQ34ITFotp30EPF9knjqnJ/story.html

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I can agree that there are better ways to teach a subject such as math. However, there still is a need to pass the courses the students are stuck with. It is fine to have a child improve their understanding of the concepts. But, the textbooks and exams are geared toward the learning by rote technique. Thus, they may understand the concepts, but still have to memorize endless lists in order to pass exams.

 

My own children get home from school between 5 and 6 pm. They get up for school at 5 am. In those hours, it is pretty challenging to have creative learning going on and still do the rote part.

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SkyMan

So he thinks playing Clue, Sudoku, and Checkers is a better plan than taking Calculus?  It would be more fun, but I wouldn't have gotten far in college without Calculus.  I enjoyed taking Calculus though.

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rainymike

I can agree that there are better ways to teach a subject such as math. However, there still is a need to pass the courses the students are stuck with. It is fine to have a child improve their understanding of the concepts. But, the textbooks and exams are geared toward the learning by rote technique. Thus, they may understand the concepts, but still have to memorize endless lists in order to pass exams.

 

My own children get home from school between 5 and 6 pm. They get up for school at 5 am. In those hours, it is pretty challenging to have creative learning going on and still do the rote part.

 

I think I'm just trying to figure out a way to make math interesting to the kids. Don't think I can teach everything the school covers. The trick I think is to get them to find it interesting or useful. I agree that for life, kids just have to work their way through the curriculum whether I think its relevant or not. But am always trying to look for ways to make them realize that math is an essential skill for life.

 

My math light bulb did not go off until I was in grad school. Was actually through doing some computer programming and doing some research that I discovered how useful math was. Actually enrolled in several math courses on a non-credit basis to really learn what I had already studied and passed.

 

Games like monopoly are likely to be useful. Even Angry Birds games have some underlying physics/math in them that are useful for kids to grasp. Going shopping and adding up the cost of the items in your head and keeping an approximate total can be a fun game as well. Trying to get the oldest kid to learn round off prices and total them (so we don't have to take things out of the cart when we get to the cashier - which seems to be a national pastime for people here).

 

Doubt that I can get the kids to appreciate everything about math but I do want to figure out ways to show them that math can actually be useful. LOL ... and I'm not going to get that done with more drill and practice when they get home. Yeah they are tired of the books, but they surprisingly have plenty of energy to play a game on the computer or with daddy.

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rainymike

So he thinks playing Clue, Sudoku, and Checkers is a better plan than taking Calculus?  It would be more fun, but I wouldn't have gotten far in college without Calculus.  I enjoyed taking Calculus though.

 

I think he's saying that if kids don't take an interest in something, it is harder to learn. There can be fun ways to learn to appreciate math.

 

As another example to my previous post, I did not study calculus until I was in college. Absolutely hated it although I passed. Had zip appreciation for it. Thought it was useless. Avoided the course as long as I could.

 

Years later, I was taking a class in business. Prof insisted that we use calculus and he actually gave us some mini lessons to find the slope, min, max of a curve. That helped me do some other stuff that I was trying to model on a computer. After that, I took calculus again (just audited the class), had a great teacher, and enjoyed the subject.

 

What I see the kids doing is just going through the motions to get by. I pretty much did the same when young. Really wish I had someone turn on my math lightbulb when I was young. LOL ... I had a sixth grade teacher who taught us 'New Math'. He asked me what I thought of it. Told him it was boring. LOL ... the bastard made me regret saying that every day for the rest of the year. Wonder why some kids get math phobia...

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One of the 'aha' moments for me in math was at a fairly young age when I started looking at the way the total value of a dice roll was distributed. For instance the fact that a random throw of 3 6 sided dice had a smaller chance of being 17 or 18 than it had of being 9 or 10, by a significant amount. Working out why was one of the things that made me fall in love with math. 

 

That and later, physics. 

 

Seeing a practical and intriguing application for what is being taught is highly motivating. 

 

 

"What I’ve found instead is that a student who has developed the ability to turn a real-world scenario into a mathematical problem, who is alert to false reasoning, and who can manipulate numbers and equations is likely far better prepared for college math than a student who has experienced a year of rote calculus."

 

 

I agree.

Edited by Cipro
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One of the 'aha' moments for me in math was at a fairly young age when I started looking at the way the total value of a dice roll was distributed. For instance the fact that a random throw of 3 6 sided dice had a smaller chance of being 17 or 18 than it had of being 9 or 10, by a significant amount. Working out why was one of the things that made me fall in love with math. 

 

That and later, physics. 

 

Seeing a practical and intriguing application for what is being taught is highly motivating. 

 

 

"What I’ve found instead is that a student who has developed the ability to turn a real-world scenario into a mathematical problem, who is alert to false reasoning, and who can manipulate numbers and equations is likely far better prepared for college math than a student who has experienced a year of rote calculus."

 

 

I agree.

 

I disagree somewhat with writer of article - it's not so much what / how it's being taught but to whom it's being taught.

 

Without a stable supportive home in which to learn the task is much more difficult. Very hard for your mother to help with homework when she never learned herself. Her = 6th grade (during Depression). When the students don't GAS and neither does the parent the chances are slim to none.

 

For me it was the 20 socks (10 white / 10 black) in a drawer question in grade school - don't remember what level -

 

Without looking - how many picks to get a pair? 3,    Definitely pick  black pair?  12.  Getting a black pair with only 2 picks? A little less than 1 in 4 times 

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SkyMan

 

 

I think he's saying that if kids don't take an interest in something, it is harder to learn
Well that's quite true with any subject.  There are good teachers and bad.  My HS Physics teacher was one of the most boring people on Earth.  He was also the student photography adviser on the Yearbook so he was constantly being interrupted by yearbook staff popping in to ask questions.

 

I never had trouble motivating for math because it (and to a lesser degree science) was the only subject that had answers.  No tests ever had questions requiring you write a paragraph about you how felt about certain characters that the teacher could like or dislike on a whim.  You either had the right answer or you didn't.  In Algebra I would sit through the class and not take a note.  I aced the tests, and got a B because I never did the homework.  I guess if you want to say I had an aha moment it was paying for college.  When you pay for something you have more interest.  I graduated 3.8 and the missing .2 was for the crap classes I had to take outside math and science, where someone read your paper and took a wag at how well you did.

 

I don't see playing clue as much of a math aid except very young kids.  I don't remember for sure but I think there is only 1 die.  If there were 2 at least you'd have to add them.  Checkers?  Hmmmmm  A little logic maybe.  Sudoku involves some logic and deduction but not much math.  Memory is improved at least the way I do them on the computer since I can't write notes on the puzzle. A better method to slip math in, and this has been proven to improve early math skills, is to have them learn a musical instrument.  You learn fractions and eventually frequencies and harmonics.  Billiards teaches a lot about angles and of course, physics.

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SkyMan

 

 

For me it was the 20 socks (10 white / 10 black) in a drawer question in grade school - don't remember what level -   Without looking - how many picks to get a pair? 3,    Definitely pick  black pair?  12.  Getting a black pair with only 2 picks? A little less than 1 in 4 times 

Without looking - how many picks to get a pair?   1

Definitely pick  black pair?   1

Getting a black pair with only 2 picks?  1

 

(White socks feel thicker.)

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Without looking - how many picks to get a pair?   1

Definitely pick  black pair?   1

Getting a black pair with only 2 picks?  1

 

(White socks feel thicker.)

 

Each sock counts as 1 pick 

 

My white socks and black ones are same thickness :rose:  frost bite 35 years ago - 

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contraman

Dont feel too bad

A similar argument is being had in OZ

On a survey of 200 primary school teachers

Over 60% of them could not recite the time table above x10.

 

The teachers union have been granted an injunction to prevent any further figures being released :(

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better plan than taking Calculus

 

except for students planning on studying higher levels of physics, mathematics and engineering, there is no need to study calculus. 

 

The US would be far better off studying probability instead of calculus.. 

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InternetTough

Maybe the Americans could agree to homestay some Korean kids who want to improve their English. They could pay for their homestays by teaching the American kids in the house math. 

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