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Topic: constructivism in the 90s -- the 1890s!
Replies: 13   Last Post: Aug 18, 2000 9:39 AM

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Guy Brandenburg

Posts: 714
Registered: 12/3/04
constructivism in the 90s -- the 1890s!
Posted: Aug 17, 2000 4:33 PM
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I have been reading a very interesting book called "The Making of the
Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes. He discusses, among other things, the
education of people like Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard,
Theodor von Karman, Edward Teller, Johnny von Neumann, and so on, who
played major parts in the development of nuclear power, explosives, and
so on.

Here is a passage from page 108 of my pbk edition:

"The Minta {a nickname for a certain school in Hungary -- note added by
GFB} that Szilard and Teller later attended deeply gratified von Karman
when he went there in the peaceful 1890s. 'My father [who founded the
school],' he writes, 'was a great bdeliever in teaching everything --
Latin, math, and history -- by showing its connection with everyday
living.' To begin Latin the students wandered the city copying down
inscriptions from statues and museums; to begin mathematics they looked
up figures for Hungary's wheat producation and made tables and drew
graphs. 'At no time did we memorize rules from a book. Instead we sought
to develop them ourselves.' What better basic training for a scientist?"

On the other hand, Albert Einstein, according to Rhodes ended up
rebelling against the autocracy and rote learning of the German
Gymnasium, was either expelled or quit, even though he was a brilliant
student, renounced his German citizenship at the ripe old age of 17
(January 28, 1896), and finished his secondary education in democratic
Switzerland. {see pages 170-171 for more details.)

So, when anybody claims that the idea of constructivism is solely a
result of the evil NCTM who hatched it in 1988 or 1989, they are at best
sorely mistaken.

Guy F. Brandenburg

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