Date: Apr 19, 1995 9:25 PM
Author: Ted Alper
Subject: Re: where's the math? so? (was Re: 5th Grade Activity)


Janet Smith wrote:

>Second, I think we need to really look at what is important to teach. Is
>the algebra, geometry, algebra route really appropriate today? When will
>our students learn all the new math that has evolved since world war II?
>I think their future will require a lot more discrete math, and a lot
>less of the traditional curriculum.


While I certainly agree that the standard curriculum should not be
considered unalterable -- and that technological changes and needs
should influence what and how one teaches -- I wonder what is meant by
"all the new math that has evolved since world war II" in this
context. Information theory? The method of forcing? The new methods
for doing linear optimization problems? Please explain how any of
these things effects 10th graders, let alone 5th or second graders, or
how it might influence what they should be doing in class.

(The NCTM standards book has that standard bit of boilerplate around
pages 7 or 8 of the introduction -- more than half of all mathematics
having been invented since WWII -- but what does that MEAN? Are we
counting pages of journal articles? Number of theorems? Are we
allowing for redundancy? Most of this math builds on the same
foundations that classical mathematics does. The vast amount is
specialized knowledge -- generally requiring fairly advanced training
to be intelligible and even then only digested by a few who feel a
need to explore it. A classical secondary mathematics education (as a
start) is hardly a disadvantage in approaching the modern mathematical
literature.)


For that matter, discrete math -- regardless of what specific topics
one puts under the label -- doesn't REPLACE the traditional curriculum.
Discrete math builds upon algebra and geometry fairly extensively.

Ted Alper
alper@epgy.stanford.edu