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Re: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?
Posted:
Oct 4, 2005 12:43 AM


In article <dhqe43$4sl$1@abbenay.CS.Berkeley.EDU>, Brian Harvey <bh@cs.berkeley.edu> wrote: > >mathteach@mikeskettle.com 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 multidigit algorithms become nonarbitrary. >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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