As much as I try to stay away (since I'm not an educator myself) from the many controversies and commentary surrounding math education in this country I am constantly lured back to it… and I simply CANNOT EVER NOT read the words of Keith Devlin on the subject since I always find his views so interesting and incisive.
His latest "Devlin's Angle" post is apparently inspired by a piece that educator Liping Ma wrote for the AMS Notices, entitled "A Critique of the Structure of U.S. Elementary School Mathematics," which Keith feels touches on "how to do it right in the curriculum-obsessed, teacher-denigrating US." It also relates to Keith's own recent forays into MOOCs and math video games. Read all Dr. Devlin's thoughts here:
Early on he stresses the importance of excellent, well-trained teachers, over curriculum, with these simple formulas:
BAD CURRICULUM + GOOD OR WELL-TRAINED TEACHERS = GOOD EDUCATION
GOOD CURRICULUM + POOR OR POORLY-TRAINED TEACHERS = POOR EDUCATION
and a couple more brief excerpts:
"Behind Ma’s suggestion, as well as behind my MOOC and my video game (both of which I have invested a lot of effort and resources into) is the simple (but so often overlooked) observation that, at its heart, mathematics is not a body of facts or procedures but a way of thinking. Once a person has learned to think that way, it becomes possible to learn and use pretty well any mathematics you need or want to know about, when you need or want it."I feel like this is must-reading for me… and all the more-so for any educator out there!
"...it’s very easy to skip over school arithmetic as a low-level skill set to be “covered” as quickly as possible in order to move on to the 'real stuff' of mathematics. But Ma is absolutely right in arguing that this is to overlook the rich potential still offered today by what are arguably (I would so argue) the most important mathematical structures ever developed: the whole and the rational numbers and their associated elementary arithmetics.
"For what is often not realized is that there is absolutely nothing elementary about elementary arithmetic."
...A-a-a-and, as long as I've got your attention, a reminder that the deadline for submissions to the next "Carnival of Math" (hosted right here by Shecky!) is next weekend; so please send those contributions to: