Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who needs to be good at Math anyway?

G.V. Ramanathan, wonders if the nation isn't all in a lather about nothing, a professor emeritus of mathematics, statistics and computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he suggests the average person doesn't need higher math.

Ann Bibby wrote on Care2 Causes today:
"In a recent article for The Washington Post, Ramanathan questions the frenzied call to arms of the education establishment to try and boast the almost zero interest most Americans have in math beyond the basics. He points out that since the first clarion of concern in 1983's A Nation At Risk a lot of money and time has been devoted to promoting math, but that standardized test scores of American teens have improved not one bit since the 1980's. And despite the angst and alarm this causes politicians and business interests, the fact is that most people aren't required to use advanced math in their daily lives, either at work or personally. Math is less relevant to daily life than literature, history, politics, music and communication skills."

My take:

Sure the average kid can get by without higher math. Is "average" all you want your kid to be?

Math is the gateway skill to the high tech jobs of the future.

The "average person" can be intimidated by just tossing out a few statistics. The competent ones are not afraid of challenging politicians who attempt to hoodwink us by citing dubious stats to get us to panic into supporting lame bailouts that they don't properly understand themselves. Do you imagine W understood the bailout? Unlikely.
His advisors may have, who were likely huge investors in Wallstreet, but they were interested only in their own agenda.
Anyway, hoi polloi let them get away with it and now we have a multi-trillion dollar debt.
If everyone viscerally understood debt and compound interest, we might have burned Keynes at the stake instead of sanctifying him.

Another take, the lottery is just a tax on people who suck at math.

No one is "bad at math" but teaching makes them appear so. Teaching it by a method which relies for its success on short term memory - our weakest mental faculty, instead of say, imagination - children's greatest strength, is barren of ideas and a betrayal of children's potential.

Consider this - traditional math teaching is nothing but the forced memorization of facts, rules, formulae and process.

Where's Understanding supposed to come from?

My point is, if kids aren't learning by the way we are teaching, it is time to teach them in the way they can learn.

"Teaching Math with Manipulatives" - Geoff White

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