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Topic: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?
Replies: 3   Last Post: Oct 14, 2005 12:43 AM

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Brian Harvey

Posts: 26
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?
Posted: Oct 11, 2005 2:26 AM
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dp_bozarth@swko.dot.net writes:
>But if they don't know arithmetic yet, then they'll continue to fail at
>everything else...


No, I don't believe this is true.

It depends on what "don't know arithmetic" means. For the most part, it
means "haven't memorized the times table" and/or "get confused about the
partial products when multiplying multi-digit numbers."

Neither of those skills is the least bit necessary. Just hand them a
calculator. Giving out calculators is a lot cheaper than keeping them in
prison for most of their lives when they can't get a job because they fail
the state exit exam (20% of California seniors, according to today's paper).

And nothing in real math (by which I mean math that's about reasoning
rather than memorizing) depends on the ability to do arithmetic.

It's true that if a kid doesn't know what adding or multiplying *means*
then s/he's in trouble. So I think we should just hand out the calculators
in kindergarten, and focus the math curriculum on how to get from a word
problem to knowing which calculator button to push.

(Yes, sure, it's even better if the kid can reason *and* memorize. But some
kids just can't -- they are bright kids with a specific learning disability
about short-term memory, and we needlessly make their school lives miserable
by providing a curriculum that's entirely about memorization.)


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