Friday, August 2, 2013

The faulty logic indeed


The Faulty Logic of the 'Math Wars' -

I read this and want to bang my head against my desk. The authors take it as a given that the standard algorithm for addition has no mathematical meaning, does not foster an understanding of what is being done, is merely a rote procedure that can be done on a calculator, and offers students no way of knowing why they are doing what they are doing.

Bollocks! The standard algorithm clearly aligns the place values of each number, allows for ones to be added to ones, tens to tens, etc. It's simple, efficient, and almost self-explanatory. It has meaning that isn't diminished by its simplicity. Or are its opponents merely looking at its simplicity and assuming it must be meaningless?

People against traditional math are continually creating straw men:  The teacher drones a lecture to the class while the class tunes out (instead of creating an engaging and interactive Q&A style format which is the norm), nothing but drill and kill--aka. learning a skill well enough for automaticity is just going to kill students' natural love of math (instead of encouraging the joys of struggle and eventual mastery), students don't figure anything out themselves and so haven't really learned anything (instead of worksheets and Q&A's with the teacher that demonstrate mastery.

As long as bozos like these continue to completely ignore the fact that traditional mathematics education did include deep understanding of concepts and the why's of math even while the actually taught math, the math wars will continue to rage.

* Actually, the article, in the end, makes some of the same points that I made. Their bottom-line point seems to be: progressive education is the way to go, but progressives are mistaken in thinking that the standard algorithms are not progressive. If they just redefine the algorithms they loathe with a flaming passion and have been rejecting for decades as being in fact progressive algorithms, everything will be hunky dory!

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