26
Feb
08

dr. math has failed me

Alright, I was setting homework for my geometry class a couple of weeks ago, and there was this question in the text that I could NOT figure out.  At least, not immediately.  So I thought “Dr. Math will save me!”  Of course, in the process of writing to them, I figured out a solution, but I wasn’t very pleased with my solution, so I was hoping they’d come up with a different one.  They say they might not answer, because it’s purely volunteer so they can’t answer every question and it’s been longer than the few days they say it usually takes, so no love for me.  Frankly, my conclusion is that Dr. Math should take volunteers from all over and not just from people at Drexel.  Because then they’d be able to answer more questions, including mine.  Of course, I tried to find out if they do take volunteers outside of Drexel and got distracted, so maybe they do take them.  But whatever.

I think the geometry guys are getting into the project now.  They seemed a bit more fired up about it today.  Word on the street is that they also hate it because “it’s hard.”  Wimps. 

I’m addicted to watching the Biggest Loser, so now I’ve been watching all of the old seasons on my computer.  And, frankly, it may have spoiled me for the real show since I now realize that half the time alloted for the show is spent on commercials.  But it’s still kind of inspiring. 

Today in 6th grade, we gave the TXML (actually, our math dept is poor right now because of this contest we hosted that left us in the red financially, so we just gave an old version of the test — no, I don’t know why we didn’t just skip it altogther and yes, I do know that an atmosphere of competition is detrimental to the learning process).  I told the kids up front that it didn’t matter how they did, but they were all still desperate to know what score they got and what the threshold score was for getting a certificate.  One kid was almost crying because we went over the answers after and he hadn’t written his down (I’d taken up their scantrons) but he was SURE he’d done so well and couldn’t he just copy his answers down from the scantron so he could find out RIGHT THIS INSTANT?  I get wanting to know how you did; I just don’t get being that desperate about it.

So these Kohn books I’ve been reading (really if you just read The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” or What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? And Other Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies then you don’t need to read the others since he basically just goes on and on about the same things at greater length — don’t get me wrong, the books are very thought provoking — besides, even teachers would like to have their students actually interested and doing well without homework. the latter of the two is a more concise presentation of most of the ideas in the former and is the book I’m reading right now — it’s getting sort of boring and so now I’m reading it more skeptically) and Kohn is big on Whole Language as a method for learning to read and write.  So I was wondering if there was a way to adapt this to mathematics since it sounds like it has some excellent points.  This led to my reading some things about constructivism (a theory of learning that I already knew about) and discovery learning, etc, which in turn led me to this article: Why Minimal Guidance Instruction Does Not Work by Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark. It’s really an interesting article that, in many ways, rebuts Kohn. Their basic idea is “if something doesn’t affect long-term memory, then no learning has occurred.” Which is an interesting idea. Of course, I’m sure that will lead me to even more articles. I seriously wish I could take time out for an education doctorate. But that seems unlikely.

–ryo out

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