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FYI: TEDtalk The Cold Hard Truth about School Math by Prof. Jennifer Szydlik

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It is a 13 min YouTube video and touch on the race to calculus as well.


“Published on Jan 23, 2019

School math is a ruthless and ineffectual substitute for the real thing. Students often experience “math as a race” where quick memorization of tools pays dividends and powerful and authentic mathematical behaviors are marginalized – along with the students themselves.

Jennifer Earles Szydlik is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where she specializes in preparing future teachers and studies students’ beliefs about the nature of mathematics. She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a specialty in mathematics education.”

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The older I get the more grateful I am for my math teacher from grade 5 to 9. She taught us the formulas and the standard curriculum, but then she gave us time and freedom to think. We had puzzles and patterns, and our geometry proofs were never written in 2 columns. They were paragraphs, and each had to be written from scratch to show the actual thinking process in words. I did not see a multiple choice/fill in the blank test until grade 10, and it was hugely disappointing - there was no room to think.

If I remember correctly (and I'm sure there are posters who can correct me - please feel free), the way the math is taught (by rote and formula) goes back to the public school education in colonial Britain. It needed to train many public servants to efficiently add and subtract long columns of numbers and keep the empire going.


The teacher actually read the proofs and made specific comments about logic flaws. She taught us to set up the paper perfectly - clear handwriting, margins, diagrams always with a ruler and to scale and always with pencil, everything else in pen and no eraser marks. Work was done on scrap paper and copied into notebook when completely done.


Edited by RosemaryAndThyme
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