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Topic: Mathematician
Replies: 28   Last Post: Oct 15, 2010 8:47 AM

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Jonathan Groves

Posts: 2,068
From: Kaplan University, Argosy University, Florida Institute of Technology
Registered: 8/18/05
Re: Mathematician
Posted: Oct 14, 2010 1:35 AM
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Thanks for sharing this post from the AP Calculus discussion group.
I have not joined that group yet since I'm not involved at the moment
in any way of teaching AP Calculus. In fact, I had thought since I
don't teach AP Calculus and since the list is moderated outside Math
Forum that I would not be eligible to join, but I can see I was
wrong since that same post mentions Lou Talman.

There are many ways to teach math successfully. There is no such
unique way to do that. Discovery learning can be used successfully,
but it is by no means necessary for success. In fact, a teacher
who feels very uncomfortable trying it will probably cause more
harm than good without further preparation and training.

Much of what works can also depend on the teacher's personality,
experiences, strengths and weaknesses, the personality of the
students, and so on. And that also explains why a teaching
method you can try with one class ends up becoming at least
reasonably successful--if not highly successful--and a total
bust for another class. Likewise, for online classes, some
classes I have little difficulty encouraging students to be
active in discussions, at least for the first three or so
weeks of the course, and other classes that is quite a
challenge. This term's discussions at Argosy have been
unusually calm after the first week. Participation tends to
drop some after Week 1 but usually only gradually. For this
class, participation has dropped like a rock after Week 1.

Speaking of politicians and other administrators, I find it
a crying shame that they deadlock teachers into teaching in
particular ways and with particular materials and curricula
that don't work and forbid teachers from doing those things that
teachers need to do to help their students learn. And then they
bash teachers for students' failures.

College politics often are just as bad, especially in remedial math
courses. Every college or university that I know of runs all their
remedial math courses as common courses. The online schools I teach
for run all their math courses, remedial or not, as common courses.
Yet these courses are not run in ways that help the students
learn anything meaningful, but professors who recognize some of
these problems cannot do anything about it because they are deadlocked
into using the same assignments, same exams, same grading, same
discussion questions, and so on as everyone else. Not only is
the "one size fits all" theory of education terrible for the
students, it is even more terrible when this one size imposed on
all the students works for only a very small number of them.

Jonathan Groves

On 10/13/2010 at 1:17 pm, Dave L. Renfro wrote:

> Jonathan Groves (in part):

> > In fact, Johnson and Rising not only do not make
> such
> > claims, but they explictly say that the ideas of
> discovery
> > learning have been around since at least the time
> of
> > Socrates. In short, sometimes it is hard to tell
> for sure
> > if messages about discovery learning and other
> forms of
> > learning are being pressed as something new, but
> other
> > times it is clear that the educators are not doing
> so,
> > especially when they explictily mention that these
> ideas
> > are not new.
> I'm willing to concede the point in this specific
> case,
> and I would have while writing my earlier post,
> before
> seeing your comments, since my comments were
> primarily
> driven by the aggregate of the experiences I've had
> with
> these kinds of things (expensive teacher pre-service
> activities that cheerlead the latest fad). Too often,
> it seems to me, everyone (especially administrators
> and
> politicians who have little to no teaching
> experience)
> is looking for THE WAY or THE METHOD, such as
> discovery
> learning, assertive discipline, writing across the
> curriculum,
> student centered learning, authentic assessment, etc.
> Today a post appeared in the ap-caclulus group (see
> [1])
> that captures my feelings very well, such as "My
> advice
> would be to try everything and end up with what works
> best
> for you".
> [1]
> Dave L. Renfro

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