Wayne

- "I have 13 year old twin boys who are in seventh grade.
Generally, they try to stay away from taking the same class, but since
there is only one section of Advanced Math in their Junior High School,
they ended up in the same class. Their teacher is considered a very
tough and demanding teacher but in my opinion, she represents everything
that is wrong in the way we teach mathematics in middle
school. She is an absolute freak about procedural things and
things have to be done exactly in one way (whatever she thinks is the
right way). Early in the school year she assigned a POW
(problem of the week) that went like this:

- There are 30 lockers and 30 kids. At the start, all lockers are
closed. Then kid #1 goes through and opens every locker; kid #2
closes every other locker, kid #3 reverses the position of every third
locker and so on. The problem asked for the status of each locker
after all 30 kids had gone through it. One of the twins drew a
picture (a square for each locker) and then proceeded to work out the
problem by sheer brute force (marking the entire sequence of changes in
each box). The other twin observed that the number of times a
locker got changed had to do with the number of divisors of the locker
number, so that if one could find the number of divisors of an integer
one could solve the problem in total generality. He then
illustrated his argument by picking locker #12 and illustrating how and
why his general argument works. For his efforts he got a D,
while the first twin got an A.

- This is only the most blatant example of what goes on in that classroom in the guise of mathematics."

- "I know that there are many other people out there who share my strong feelings about the dismal state of mathematics education in this country. I find it ironical in this country we have more professional mathematics-education people per capita (by far) than any other country in the world. I always wonder if there is a cause and effect relationship here. In any case, you are not alone in opposition to a lot of the garbage going on, and I sense more and more a tremendous dissatisfaction with the politically correct movements in mathematics education."

At 09:17 AM 2/15/2013, r!chard tchen wrote:

Greg,

Coincidentally, the _Mathematics Teacher_ article that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has made available for free this month discusses an action research study on teaching strategies used to facilitate problems of the week -- and includes student performance data from the Northwest Educational Assessment (NWEA) and Indiana Algebra 1 exit exam:

Punch Up Algebra with POWs (downloads 2.5M PDF)

http://www.nctm.org/workarea/downloadasset.aspx?id=35292

Cheers,

Richard Tchen

The Math Forum @ Drexel

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