On Dec 27, 2013, at 1:50 AM, kirby urner <kirby.urner@GMAIL.COM> wrote:

On Tue, Dec 24, 2013 at 3:30 PM, Robert Hansen <bob@rsccore.com> wrote:
> You seem to always shoulder students with the burden of suffering a math deficit, whereas it may be the school's curriculum and/or teachers and/or the whole culture of a high school that  starts closing these doors.

Thatís not true. Most of my years here were spent studying curriculums, in detail. I blame the schools and curriculums for not nurturing the students who are good in math. The only students that actually continue on after school and use and apply this gift. The little bit of math that the other students pickup is soon forgotten.

I don't think what we call "math" in K-12 should at all try to style itself as some miniaturized version of what a college math major might study.  It's its own animal.

True, but to my point. Devlinís course is basically a 10th grade introduction to logic. I was taken back by the mathematical immaturity of what he is offering. Maybe if I looked at it as a 10th grade class I would be more impressed.

Numeric literacy includes using measurements and currency, telling time, arithmetic, appreciation for data visualization techniques and conventions, familiarity with rounding / rounding error / significant digits, an understanding of statistical arguments and concepts such as mean, mode and median, standard deviation (bell curve), interest, probabilities, the wave and particle nature of energy...

Then I'd add some broad brush stroke overview perspective as a navigation aid, tell some history.  

This history and context part is a part normally left out I realize, but is what you'd find in a Time-Life trade book such as 'Mathematics', influential on my younger self:


I think many of those who survive the intensely dull presentation of grade schools are saved by trade books (not textbooks) such as the above, and today by stuff in the Internet, such as Mandelbrots and Mandelbulbs 'n stuff.

I absolutely loved those Time-Life books, but inspiration is only a small part of the journey. You still have to master the material and that is done in classrooms with textbooks. My associates didnít find our STEM classes intensely dull at all. And we went on to have enjoyable and successful STEM careers. Isnít the likely and more reasonable explanation as to why you find STEM classrooms boring is simply that you donít actually have much of a sincere interest in STEM? You seem fine when STEM equates to watching YouTube videos or just playing, but when it gets serious and weighted with detail, you abscond. Thatís not really about the class, that is about how sincere your interest actually is.

> "Math dependent degree" includes a lot of them, including just about anything healthcare related.  Maybe 3% want to be math majors, whereas 40% seek a math-dependent major.

Arithmetic dependent, probably, but not math dependent. And certainly not pure math dependent.

Arithmetic for sure, but also using measurements and currency, telling time, appreciation for data visualization... is SQL arithmetic?  I'd say not.  Microsoft Access did a lot to expose cube farmers to the power of SQL in terms of pay scale.  Get the DBA certification from Oracle or whatever and watch the income bump up.

You are jumping around a lot here, but since my current practice is based on a whole stack of Oracle products, the least of which is the database, I think I am more than qualified to offer some guidance here. There are very few people who failed algebra and make a living writing SQL. It is probably that the reasoning skills are very similar. Of course, making a living to me doesnít mean writing SQL for a soup kitchen, bless their heart. It means working for a company, often in a cubicle, and making those salaries you keep referring to. And DBAís donít write SQL anymore. Being a DBA is all about security, performance, availability and disaster recovery.


When I started my training as a high school math teacher (Jersey City, 1980s), just about every math teacher I met was training to go in the other direction:  towards private sector IT.  We lost a huge army of math teachers to careers writing Visual Basic.  It's not too late (in theory).  Many of those VBers would like to jump back into teaching math, but we won't let 'em (barriers to entry are high).

Excuse me for being a stickler for detail. Aston Tate, Lotus and DOS ruled the 80ís, while the glory days of the TRS-80 were coming to a close. VB came out in 1991 and Windows, for all intents and purposes, didnít even exist until Windows 3.1 which came out in 1992. I am sure that the former VBers would like to teach, seeing that VB has been dead since 2003, when .Net emerged. I was a VBer, for 10 years, but I have always been really good at catching the next wave. I tried to get many associates to change. But you know what they say about old dogs.

You are right about the barriers to teach though. But it isnít because the world doesnít like VBers. Youíve seen the policies and mandates. We talk about them here all the time. Why would you even bother applying to teach at a public school at this point?

Here's the paradox:  computer science is a fancy extra most run-o-the-mill schools can't afford, but the high property tax areas can, so the only kids who know about XML / HTTP / CSS in any detail are privileged, get the good summer jobs and internships, join the nonprofits.  People talking about the achievement gap never mention our solution / proposal in Oregon:  let math teachers extend their curriculum such that all this vocational / applicable stuff stops being so elective / dispensable.  Let them learn programming *for math credit* for a change, rather than making 'em burn out on calculus. I was sorry the politicians failed the IQ test and let it languish, but not surprised.  Idiocracy is widespread.

Public schools could easily afford CS. It isnít like in our day when it required a mainframe. They have more than enough PCs floating around, doing nothing. And it certainly isnít math that keeps schools from teaching CS. Math and CS go together like peanut butter and jelly. Maybe you were in a coma for the last 20 years, but most of the energy in public schools has shifted to the bottom 25% and the disabled. It takes all their energy just to rig test scores and give a semblance of diversity. It isnít like it was when we went to school. Yes, you can escape a lot of this by moving to an expensive zip code or going to a private school. Or you might be lucky enough to be part of a selective public school or focused charter school. But how can you blame people for taking those options when you know very well what mainstream public schooling has become?

> Some students have just never had the benefit of an optimized learning environment.  They have every potential to catch up and surpass, and yes, that potential is as yet unfulfilled.  Not unusual.

I am not saying that is not true. But this is not the course I would point that ďsomeĒ to. This course is not designed for the student that found their calling, even if they just found their calling. Can this course help a late student find their calling? Maybe, but I would design it quite differently. Similar topics but very different treatment. This course lacks a crucial element. It doesnít prove to the student that they are really good at this, and that is what a calling is.

You should, design something quite differently and put your name on it.  You evaluate the work of others but do you ever compete?  I'm out there with my alternatives at least, however incomplete or whatever.  But then I ramble through STEM, don't confine myself to the M part.  For a long time I've marketed as ~M (not-mathematics -- just something quite like it).

> That doesn't mean it's wrong to ill advised to steer them to courses like Devlinís.

My point was that Devlinís course wasnít actually a ďcourseĒ. The topics are good for the stated purpose, but the treatment is off. Youíd have to read the textbook I guess. And Iíll wait for the course in February to make a final judgement.

I'm looking forward to when Robert Hansen's course is one of the offerings.  Why not put your insights to good use?

That makes two of us. I have created quite a bit of content for my reference curriculum. But I also keep vacillating between that and a book on mathematical pedagogy in general. I am just amazed at how backward the field went in the last 20 to 30 years.

Bob Hansen