Thursday, April 05, 2007

Learning Math

Both the Inconvenient Truth about math education and its rebuttal provide much food for thought. Having grown up in India where the math was taught by rote and the emphasis was on developing skill rather than analytical ability, I can safely say I have lived the good and bad of the system that is being touted at the fix for math education in America. It is true that most of us have the essential problem solving skills it takes to find drone work. Those of us who have more than that, fare better in life. We don't depend on the calculator nearly as much.

Teaching an inquisitive child math specially when she refuses to learn anything by rote or commit things to memory, the Indian system no longer works. I have tried with J and have resoundingly failed. She is the kind of kid who would enjoy figuring five different ways to arrive at the product of 36 times 6 and not like being told to follow the simplest algorithm. I am sure there are many kids like J out there and a system that straitjackets them into one defined way to solve a problem will be met with much resistance if not complete non-compliance.

I have to agree with the rebuttal video in that a good math education should combine the rigor and discipline of learning things by rote but also show children why they are doing what they doing and how it all comes together. To exclude one at the cost of the other is a recipe for failure. You either produce drones that can crunch numbers like bots or philosophers who can't figure the simplest things out without writing a treatise first. It seems that school systems are challenged by the lack of time to do an equal measure of both. Perhaps parents need to supplement with what is missing to round their child's math education.


ggop said...

Where is the rebuttal article/video?

At first glance the methods seem inefficient - but that could just be due to unfamiliarity and my having to step out of going into auto pilot mode.

e.g Take the lattice method - my head would implode for calculations like 2135 x 4214 (anything larger than 2 digit numbers being multiplied)

ek shakhs said...

a loveli post. hits the nail on the head.

Heartcrossings said...

ggop - Here is the link to the rebuttal video

ek shakhs - Thanks !