On Thu, 23 Mar 1995, Tad Watanabe wrote: > > On Thu, 23 Mar 1995, Lawrence C. Lacher wrote: > > > > > > 3. What should be the principal goal of elementary school mathematics? > > > What should be the principal goal of secondary school mathematics? > > > > The principle goal---mmm, let's see---I imagine the principle goal of > > elementary school mathematics is building the basic skills so that the > > student is able to study mathematics on the secondary level. And on the > > secondary level, I see the principal goal as--well I see two goals that > > are equally important, so I'll have to list them both. One is making > > sure the students are actually able to do the mathematics, and the other > > is fostering a sense of mathemtics as a pure science (and not something > > that you necessarily have to apply to something concrete in order to give > > it meaning--and in this way, hopefully cut down on the number of students > > who say "When am I actually going to use this?") > > > > So, how are you going to answer elementary students who ask, "When am I > actually going to use this?" Why can't the principal goal of secondary > school math is "building the basic skills so that the student is able to > study mathematics on the college level"?
If an elementary student asks this, I believe it is easy enough to convince him or her of the necessity of having basic math skills in today's society. It is when the math starts getting more abstract that students lose this conception. As for the principle goal of secondary school math as "building the basic skills for college math", this is a fine goal except that many students never study math in college (except for maybe the one required math course they need to graduate).
> > And while I have your attention, here's something I've been thinking > > about lately and if anybody has any thoughts on the matter, I'd like to > > hear them. It seems here in New York State, in an attempt to integrate > > the mathematics courses, we renamed Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II/Trig > > as Sequential Math Course I, Course II, and Course III respectively. Now > > I believe in the merits of integrating the courses, but I find the new > > titles fairly sterile. Isn't it more exciting (and meaningful) to take a > > course called Geometry than Sequential Math Course II? > > > > But, if the course does include significant amount of topics outside of > geometry, isn't it misleading to call it "Geometry"?>
First, let me clarify. Although the courses are integrated, Course I is still basically Algebra; Course II is still basically Geometry; and Course III is still basically Algebra II/Trig. So in light of this, I ask the question again: Isn't it more exciting (and meaningful) to take a course called Geometry than Sequential Math Course II? Just as it is more meaningful to take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics than it would be to take, say, Science I, Science II, and Science III. I feel it is just a matter of envoking enthusiasm for a course--and it is hard to get enthusiastic about a course that has some bureaucratic title.