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Topic: Re: "The Real Scandal in American School Mathematics"
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Victor Steinbok

Posts: 1,580
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: "The Real Scandal in American School Mathematics"
Posted: May 27, 2010 5:21 AM
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I "suspect" this is simply not true. It has just about as much chance of being accurate, in general, as the claim that mathematicians cannot teach (or, for that matter, that they cannot write--and I've heard my share of both claims).

In fact, I disagree with both parts of this statement, although, I am certain, it is not too difficult to find representatives of either class.

More importantly, neither claim would be peculiar either to the US or any other country.

I'd be more inclined to believe such a claim if it was aimed specifically at elementary-school teachers and some rather narrow groups of mathematicians. A part of the problem is that mathematicians tend to suffer form the expert ignorance--when you know something really well, you can be quite blind to the difficulties others may have in the same area. This is one reason why top-down method of instruction invariably produces a significant proportion of failures.

On the other hand, there are plenty of mathematicians who don't behave as arrogant jerks and plenty of teachers at all levels who are quite knowledgeable about the subject and, in some cases, can teach many mathematicians something they don't know. Flexibility on both ends benefits everyone, although, perhaps, not in equal measure.


On 5/27/2010 4:16 AM, TONY GARDINER wrote:
> "Ralston mentions that one reason the severity of teachers' bankrupt
> understanding of mathematics continues to go unnoticed is that many
> mathematicians do not want to be seen as teacher-bashers, as arrogant
> jerks who like to belittle those who do not understand math as they
> do."
> I suspect this is a paraphrase.

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