Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Gems

Here are two articles you shouldn’t miss this summer, and they make a nice pair.

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” by Elizabeth Green, July 23, New York Times, and “Most Math Problems Do Not Have a Unique Right Answer” by Keith Devlin, August 1, 2014, Devlin’s Angle.

I’ve come to the conclusion that our old ideas and stereotypes about math and education are hard to shake. It really means reading articles like these as they come out every month or so, in order to truly change our minds and our practice.

To whet your appetite, here are a few quotes:

One of the first math classes he observed gave him such a jolt that he assumed there must have been some kind of mistake. The class looked exactly like his own memories of school. “I thought, Well, that’s only this class,” Takahashi said. But the next class looked like the first, and so did the next and the one after that. The Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them. - from “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?”

Having earned my living as a mathematician for over 40 years, I can assure you that the belief is false. In addition to my university research, I have done mathematical work for the U. S. Intelligence Community, the U.S. Army, private defense contractors, and a number of for-profit companies. In not one of those projects was I paid to find "the right answer." No one thought for one moment that there could be such a thing. - from “Most Math Problems Do Not Have a Unique Right Answer”

The last summer gem is this youcubed video about using Number Talks in math class. How would you solve 18 x 5 mentally?