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Topic: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?
Replies: 3   Last Post: Oct 13, 2005 12:12 AM

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J. Frost

Posts: 222
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?
Posted: Oct 4, 2005 12:43 AM
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In article <dhqe43$4sl$1@abbenay.CS.Berkeley.EDU>,
Brian Harvey <> wrote:
> writes:

>>I am a new teacher. I am teaching a class called Foundations of Math
>>for 9th graders who are not ready for algebra. [...] What do you do with
>>students for this amount of time when there is no preset curriculum?

>Consider teaching them algebra.
>Elementary school math (arithmetic) depends mainly on two skills:
>(1) memorizing arbitrary stuff; (2) tolerating the arbitrariness of the
>arbitrary stuff. [Yes, I know that once you understand a lot of math,
>both the number facts and the multi-digit algorithms become non-arbitrary.
>But there isn't one kid in 20 who understands all that.]
>Algebra is completely different. There are *reasons* for things. The main
>skill is logical reasoning. If you think your kids don't have that, watch
>them playing computer games.
>Teaching them arithmetic one more time (even if disguised as checkbook
>balancing, or whatever the latest "real application" fad is) will just
>give them one more chance to fail.
>The trick is to convince *them* that this isn't going to be just the same
>stuff for them to fail at again. Maybe start with something that doesn't
>have any numbers at all, such as logic puzzles. (Leave out the ones about
>relative ages. :-)
>The other possibility is to teach them computer programming. They
>exercise the same skills, but see an immediate result of their work.
>Of course, for this you need computers -- do you have them available?

My wife has taught that sort of class at the high school level several times,
and has found that Harold Jacobs' book "Mathematics, a Human Endeavor" is
a good place to start. The book is aimed at undergraduates who don't think
they like math, and it is a sampler of those things that don't get covered
in remedial arithmetic courses. The topics are the interesting things in
mathematics, so it can be a help in motivating an interest in starting to
learn the level of mathematics after arithmetic.

Another year of arithmetic slower and louder is likely to be a waste of
everyone's time.

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