> I don't know of any on this list who would not agree that the "teaching" > described in your extracts is abominable. What is your point? Do you > attribute these stories to San Antonio's adoption of the NCTM Standards > (or some similar body of standards)? > It seems to me that even most of the Standards' most vociferous critics > might agree that most teachers who really have their students' best > interest at heart would do better than this, even under the guidance > of the Standards.
``Most teachers who really have their students' best interest at heart...'' This is naive. Most teachers (as most people) have their own interests at heart first of all. It does not mean that they are immoral, it simply means that they are humans, neither beasts nor angels. Many of these teachers love kids and are not devoid of normal human decency. They are not happy having to forbid students to ask questions, but they cannot afford it because most probably they will not be able to answer them. They would be most happy to communicate with their students in a friendly manner, and this can be achieved by the price of a small amputation: just exclude solving problems from math classes. But these teachers also want to save their face, they don't want to admit that they are not competent, they want to pretend that they are going to do something more advanced than solving problems. And this explains the tremendous success of all the activities associated with NCTM "standards". Professors and other important people tell teachers ex cathedra that problems are `phony' and that it is much more modern and creative to involve students into collecting portfolios, writing essays, answering open-ended questions etc. - all those activities where everybody is right. Advantages: 1) All teachers are competent enough, nobody needs to be fired. 2) All students succeed, whatever they write is accepted. 3) Teachers can afford to allow students to ask questions, so that there is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Any question is OK because any answer is OK. Disadvantage (only one): Students never learn to solve those hard problems where there is just one right answer. But they did not learn much of it under the old program also, so there is not much to lose.
Andre Toom Department of Mathematics firstname.lastname@example.org University of the Incarnate Word Tel. 210-646-0500 (h) 4301 Broadway 210-829-3170 (o) San Antonio, Texas 78209-6318 Fax 210-829-3153