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Topic: Let's Teach Students, Not "Inspire" Them
Replies: 7   Last Post: Dec 1, 2012 11:17 PM

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GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Re: Let's Teach Students, Not "Inspire" Them
Posted: Nov 27, 2012 12:05 PM
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I have a somewhat different take on the issue from the letter-writer, Charles Ayer; I've explained it after the letter - though I do NOT believe, on the other hand, that "inspiring" students is the first task of a teacher. I am not qualified to judge Mr Ayer's claim that (the US has) "too many teachers" - that is something that will have to be decided by the stakeholders in US education:
> The following Letter to the Editor was published in
> The Hartford Courant on 27 Nov. 2012, Page A8. The
> Letter was written in response to the Opinion pieces
> at:
> llero-education-must-ignite-stud-20121123,0,
> ory
> -connecticut-schools-underfunded-20121123,0,
> ory
> ==========================
> -to-the-editor-cdb,0,1099648,results.formprofile?Query
> =10513HC
> Let's Teach Students, Not "Inspire" Them
> Charles Ayer, Vernon
> The Courant's lead Opinion articles on education
> [Nov. 25, "Inspiring Students" and "Connecticut
> School Woefully Underfunded, Formula Broken" were not
> data-based and were utterly misguided.
> Between 1970 and 2009, the number of students per
> full-time equivalent teacher in the US fell from 22.3
> to 15.4. Between 1970 and 2005, spending per pupil in
> constant year dollars doubled, from $4,500 a student
> to $9,000 a student. We are obviously spending plenty
> of money and we arguably have too many teachers.
> I graduated from public high school in 1971. I never
> felt that my education was impeded by an overcrowded
> classroom and I had consistently outstanding
> teachers. The weak ones were weeded out pretty
> quickly. I was taught how to read and write and was
> given a firm grounding in history, mathematics and
> the sciences. I studied two languages and was exposed
> to the beautiful worlds of art and music.
> My classmates and I were imparted knowledge that made
> us useful and valuable. We went on to become doctors,
> lawyers, tradesmen, businesswomen, engineers and
> entrepreneurs. We were not peddled drivel about
> "learning how to learn" or "learning how to ask
> questions, not answer them."
> In order to move forward, we must go back -- to
> basics.

Why not think in terms of "inspiring" students through demonstrating that math is exciting and beautiful and poetic AND useful - and not just a collection of dusty rules and 'times-tables' and boring formulae?

I'm NOT a math-teacher myself, but I did manage to "inspire" one (freshman college) student to work on the following Mission: "To understand thoroughly all topics in my math syllabus and THEREBY to improve, very significantly, my results in my math exams, tests, quizzes".

That student had NEVER gotten above 45% in his math right through his school career - and was doing very much worse in his freshman college year. After I had shown him for about 40 days how he could develop a 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) and use this process to work on the above-noted Mission, he was soon able to 'put it all together', and in just about 8 months' time after he started on his Mission, he was regularly getting above 75% in all his math exams, etc. Two points to be observed:

1) I gave him NO math tuition at all - he got all the math help he needed from his math teachers and from his peers who were good at math. All I did for him was to show him how to construct and interpret his models (made from lists of ideas he generated himself from well-designed 'trigger questions' about his Mission) - and then, suggest to him "what to do next" at various stages of his OPMS development;

2) Those days the OPMS software was not available and he therefore (in addition to learning how to do his math), had to learn how to construct his models without benefit of computer.

Yes, he had to be convinced that an adequate and usable knowledge of math would help make him useful and valuable (and that being useful in society was worth striving for).

Some aspects of his Mission are described at the PowerPoint presentation, "Some Missions of Interest", attached herewith.

Of course, this evidence is likely to be dismissed by Robert Hansen as being 'anecdotal fluff'. So be it.


Message was edited by: GS Chandy

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