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Topic: Re: Managing Emotions in the Math Classroom
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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Managing Emotions in the Math Classroom
Posted: Sep 5, 2008 4:45 PM
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> Kirby Posted: Sep 2, 2008 4:04 PM

> >I attempted one lengthy and one short reply to your
> >latest backatchas, via the web interface, but these
> >apparently got lost in the shuffle. I may try again
> >later, may not. If you want a more free wheeling
> >discussion, I suggest we find a less censorious
> >and/or less work-losing environment.

> Kirby,
> I, too, have lost a few postings, to Math-Teach,
> that I thought were alright. More often,
> however, when my posts have failed to get through it
> was because there was too much personal edginess too
> them. A few times I re-wrote the posts, taking the
> personal references out, and the posts got through
> just fine.
> Any chance that is what happened to you?

Possibly, but I have a hard time internalizing whatever
value system is doing the deciding, feel it's sort of
hit or miss.

> As for my "backatchas", is that how you feel about
> all dialogue, or only about dialogues wherein
> your interlocutor does not agree with every point you
> make? Personally, I have never understood the point
> of exploring a subject with people who completely
> agree with me. Unless you believe you are "the last
> and the greatest prophet of God", you must have some
> doubt about your ideas.

I think you read too much into my use of that term, which
went across my screen recently ("backatcha"), kinda liked
it, found an opportunity to redeploy. Sometimes I'm more
just the passive meme vector, forwarding more than
originating. I don't spread chain letters though, not
into mass mailings either.

> You should want to test your ideas, and there are
> are several ways to do that. One way is to present
> them in a forum and invite criticism. Is that not
> the point of academic conferences, for example?

I'm completely open to testing in public forums, which is
what I'm doing here, you're right about that. A two way
street of course, as each one of us gets to refine and
define our thinking. I'll attempt to reinject some more
substance into it below.

> Of course, the key is that the criticism is about
> ideas, not about personalities, something that
> our leftist friends in this forum haven't quite yet
> got a grasp on.
> Haim
> Unashamedly White and Unapologetically Jewish

So like I was talking about SQL (Structured Query
Language), know from years in the computer world that
(a) SQL is still relevant and (b) it's likely to remain
so, even as database theory continues to be an inventive
and fertile area, with other approaches gaining ground.

Few people think of teaching any SQL as a part of an
ordinary high school algebra class, but here in Portland
you might get an inservice day listening to Kirby yak
about Python, showing how a relational database might
contain information about Polyhedra, such that students
are getting reinforcement in both geometry and set theory
at the same time, a valuable connecting of dots and
without that "but what is this good for?" complaint, as
it's quite demonstrably a relevant set of skills that
we're looking at.

When I was a grad student at St. Peters College in Jersey
City, just about anyone taking computer classes was
looking to get a job in private industry. You had lots
of high school math teachers, seeking a higher income.
My approach is to move in the other direction, taking
this knowledge and skills into the schools, creating new
opportunities for faculty already in place. Here's a way
to revitalize your curriculum, take advantage of those
computers your school maybe purchased, is now wondering
what to do with.

Does every school in the country care what Kirby thinks
and do I give my Python Briefing just anywhere, and am
I the only one doing it? Answer: no, most have never
heard of me or what I'm up to, no I don't stand and
deliver just anywhere and I'm working on expanding my
stable of presenters, recruiting mostly *not* computer
science professors, as I'm seeking to inspire imitators
less than I'm hoping to cow high school computer and/or
math teachers into submission (many have come up through
the ranks, might have been the gym teacher at some point
- -- relevant, because our curriculum takes us outside a
lot, gotta see stars).

Given this is a private business and given the schools are
already getting whatever funding they're getting, you
don't have to see this as Kirby milking the cash cow, as
I'm pretty much giving away the Briefing, only vending
the catalog services and artifacts a faculty may ask for
as follow-up (including more classes). Some want more
training, some want more toys. There's a profit margin
for me (for us) in providing that follow-up (which is not
mandatory, not state mandated). Also, I don't just work
with public schools, sometimes present to government
agencies or whatever (been doing this since the 1980s,
next gig after McGraw-Hill, though not around Python as
that's part of the 2nd computer revolution (PC, then
open source)).

I think we're talking about teacher choice here. You and
your camp talk a lot about vouchers, but my focus is
teachers unhappy with or ready to move beyond the
antediluvian crappola (oh oh, will that kill it? --
nothing personal), wanting to bring their students into
the 21st century. The arguments for using Python or
some other computer language as a part of math learning,
along with SQL, other job-relevant tools, are quite
strong (for those needing arguments) i.e. we're still
doing state standard topics, like trig, vectors,
statistics, just are no longer stuck with only black
boxy calculators or prone-to-fail robots as our rather
poor excuse for "technology in the classroom".

In some schools, you have enough geek parents, like in
Portland / Beaverton, to make this very much a parent-
driven response, i.e. they bring in Kirby or someone like
him, because that's what a lot of parents think oughta
happen, they're already sold on the core concept (a
stronger hybrid of math and computer science = a new
kind of numeracy that flies, cleverly marketed as
GnuMath in some circles).

As to what databased research proves or disproves that
this one initiative is effective or bearing fruit, we'll
have to wait and see a little, as we're talking about
rather new programming. Safe to say, I've done a lot of
field testing, including with students of a high school
age. They've filled out evaluations (unseen by me), plus
some are now old enough to be entering the job market,
or are applying for college (good to have choice there

Here's a paragraph I've been sharing with some of my
AlgebraFirst buddies, just to give a better sense of my
operational goal for this region (maybe New York will
clone me, not holding my breath):

My angle is it's less the degree or credential that
matters and more the evidence of skills, something to
brag about in a job interview, that you know SQL, even
though just fresh out of high school. I'm aiming towards
a local economy in which a high school degree might be
sufficient again, for some entry level job, with college
and company life really a lot congruent in future, as
work/study people farm themselves out to this or that
training, including history and geography when traveling
to that region... ends up being very like a college
degree, but measured more in promotions within the
company (an old template, no original thinking here,
except it all sounds kinda retro, now that we take quasi-
universal college for granted).


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